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"Ce n'est pas dans les possibilites, c'est dans rhomme meme qu'il faut gtudier rhomme : 
il ne s'agit pas d'irnaginer ce qu'il auroit pii ou dil faire, mais de regarder ce qii'il fait." 

— De Brorses. 

IN TWO VOLUMES. ' 4 1 ' < 




{Rifihf.t of TruvplaHon •'/lid KeprotJwtloi- r f-v- ••■>', d. , 






The present volumes, uniform with the previous 
volume of "Eesearches into the Early History of 
MankincV' (1st Ed. 1865; 2nd Ed. 1870), carry on 
the investigation of Culture into other branches of 
thought and belief, art and custom. During the past 
six years, I have taken occasion to bring tentatively 
before the public some of the principal points of 
new evidence and argument here advanced. The doc- 
trme of survival in culture, the bearing of directly- 
expressive language and the invention of numerals on 
the problem of early civilization, the place of myth in 
the primitive history of the human mind, the develop- 
ment of the animistic philosophy of religion, and the 
origin of rites and ceremonies, have been discussed in 
various papers and lectures,"^ before being treated at 
large and with a fuller array of facts in this work. 

The authorities for the facts stated in the text are 

'" Fortnightly Review : 'Origin of Language,' April 15, 1866; * Religion of 
Savages,' August 15, 1866. Lectures at Royal Institution: 'Traces of the 
Early Mental Condition of Man,' March 15, 1867 ; ' Survival of Savage Thought 
in Modern Civilization,' April 23, 1869. Lecture at University College, London : 
* Spiritualistic Philosophy of the Lower Races of Mankind,' May 8, 1869. Paper 
read at British Association, Nottingham, 1866: 'Phenomena of Civilization 
Traceable to a Rudimental Origin among Savage Tribes,' Paper read at Ethno- 
logical Society of London, April 26, 1370 : ' Philosophy of Religion among the 
Lower Races of Mankind,' etc. etc. 

fully specified in the foot-notes, which must also serve as 
my general acknowledgment of obligations to writers on 
ethnography and kindred sciences, as well as to historians, 
travellers, and missionaries. I will only mention apart 
two treatises of Avhich I have made especial nse : the 
' Mensch in der Geschichte,^ by Professor Bastian of Berlin, 
and the ' Anthropologic der Naturvolker,' by the late 
Professor Waitz of Marburg. 

In discussing problems so complex as those of the 
development of civilization, it is not enough to put for- 
ward theories accompanied by a few illustrative examples. 
The statement of the facts must form the staple of the 
argument, and the limit of needful detail is only reached 
Avhen each group so displays its general law, that fresh 
cases come to range themselves in their proper niches as 
new instances of an already established rule. Should it 
seem to any readers that my attempt to reach this limit 
sometimes leads to the heaping up of too cumbrous detail, 
I w^ould point out that the theoretical novelty as well 
as the practical importance of many of the issues raised, 
make it most unadvisable to stint them of their full 
evidence. In the course of ten years chiefly spent in 
these researches, it has been my constant task to select 
the most instructive ethnological facts from the vast 
mass on record, and by lopping away unnecessary matter 
to reduce the data on each problem to what is indis- 
pensable for reasonable proof. 

E. B. T. 

MarcJi, 1871. 







-Culture or Civilization — Its phenomena related according to definite Laws — 
Method of classification and discussion of tlie evidence — Connexion of 
successive stages of culture by Permanence, Modification, and Survival 
— Principal topics examined in the present work .... 1 



Stages of culture, industrial, intellectual, political, moral — Development of 
culture in great measure corresponds with transition from savage 
through barbaric to civilized life — Progression-theory — Degeneration- 
theory — Development-theory includes both, the one as primary, the 
other as secondary — Historical and traditional evidence not available 
as to low stages of culture — Historical evidence as to principles of 
Degeneration — Ethnological evidence as to rise and fall in culture, from 
comparison of different levels of culture in branches of the same race — 
Extent of historically recorded antiquity of civilization — Prehistoric 
Archaeology extends the antiquity of man in low stages of civilization 
— Traces of Stone Age, corroborated by megalithic structures, lake- 
dwellings, shell-heaps, burial-places, etc., combine to prove original low 
•<:alture throughout the world — Stages of progressive Development in 
iiidustrial arts . .23 




Sm-vival and Superstition— Children's games— Games of cliance— Tradi- 
tional sayings— Nursery poems— Proverbs— Riddles — Significance and 
survival in Customs : sneezing-formula, rite of foundation-sacrifice, 
prejudice against saving a drowning man 



Occult Sciences— Magical powers attributed by higher to lower races- 
Magical processes based on Association of Ideas— Omens— Augury, 
etc. — Oneiromancy — Haruspication, Scapulimancy, Chiromancy, etc. 
— Cartomancy, etc. — Rhabdomancy, Ductyliomancy, Coscinomancy, etc. 
— Astrology — Intellectual conditions accounting for the persistence of 
Magic— Survival passes into Revival— Witchcraft, originating in savage 
culture, continues in barbaric civilization ; its decline in early medi-^ — ' 
seval Europe followed by revival ; its practices and counter-practices 
belong to earlier culture — Spiritualism has its source in early stages 
of culture, in close connexion with witchcraft — Spirit-rapping and 
Spirit-writing— Rising in the air— Performances of tied mediums- 
Practical bearing of the study of Survival 101 



Element of directly expressive Sound in Language— Test by independent 
correspondence in distinct languages— Constituent processes of Lan- 
guage—Gesture—Expression of feature, etc.— Emotional Tone— Articu- 
late sounds, vowels determined by musical quality and pitch, consonants 
—Emphasis and Accent— Phrase-melody, Recitative— Sound- Words- 
Interjections — Calls to Animals — Emotional Cries — Sense-Words 
formed from Inteijections— Affirmative and Negative particles, etc. . 145. 



Imitative Words— Human actions named from sound— Animals' names from 
cries, etc.— Musical instruments— Sounds reproduced— Words modified 
to adapt sound to sense— Reduplication— Graduation of vowels to 
express distance and diff'erence— Children's Language— Sound-words as ^ 

related to Sense- words— Language an original product of the lower 
Culture ......... 101 




Ideas of Number derived from experience — State of arithmetic among 
uncivilized races — Small extent of Numeral-words among low tribes — 
Counting by fingers and toes — Hand-numerals show derivation of Verbal 
reckoning from Gesture-counting—Etymology of Numerals — Quinary, 
Decimal, and Vigesimal notations of the world derived from counting 
on fingers and toes — Adoption of foreign Numeral-words — Evidence 
of development of Arithmetic from a low original level of Culture . 218 

CHAPTER yill. 


Mythic fancy based, like other thought, on Experience — Mythology affords 
evidence for studying laws of Imagination — Change in public opinion 
as to credibility of Myths — Myths rationalized into allegory and history 
— Ethnological import and treatment of Myth — Myth to be studied in 
actual existence and growth among modern savages and barbarians — 
Original sources of Myth — Early doctrine of general Animation of 
Nature — Personification of Sun, Moon, and Stars ; "Water-spout, Sand- 
pillar, Rainbow, Water-fall, Pestilence — Analogy worked into Myth 
and Metaphor — Myths of Rain, Thunder, etc. — Effect of Language in 
formation of Myth — Material Personification primary, Verbal personifi- 
cation secondary — Grammatical Gender, male and female, animate and 
inanimate, in relation to Myth — Proper names of Objects in relation 
to Myth — Mental state proper to promote mythic imagination — 
Doctrine of Werewolves — Phantasy and Fancy 247 


MYTHOLOGY (continued). 

Nature-myths, their origin, canon of interpretation, preservation of original 
sense and significant names — INature-rnyths of upper savage racesl 
compared with related forms among barbaric and civilized nations-;:::^ 
Heaven and Earth as Universal Parents— Sun and Moon: Eclipse and 
Sunset, as Hero or Maiden swallowed by Monster; Rising of Sun from 
Sea and Descent to Under-world ; Jaws of Night and Death, Symple- 
gades; Eye of Heaven, eye of Odin and the Graiae— Sun and Moon as 
mythic civilizers — Moon, her inconstancy, periodical death and revival 
— Stars, their generation — Conste^atious, their place in Mythology and 
Astronomy — Wind and Tempest — Thunder — Earthquake . . . 2S: 



MYTHOLOGY (continued). 


Philosophical Myths : inferences become pseudo-history — Geological Myths 
— Effect of doctrine of Miracles on Mythology— Magnetic Mountain — 
Myths of relation of A-pes to Men by development or degeneration — 
Ethnological import of myths of Ape-men, Men with tails, Men of 
the Avoods — Myths of Error, Perversion, and Exaggeration : stories of 
Giants, Dwarfs, and Monstrous Tribes of men— Fanciful explanator}"" 
Myths — Myths attached to legendary or historical Personages — Etymo- 
logical Myths on names of places and persons — Eponymic Myths on 
names of tribes, nations, countries, etc. ; their ethnological import 
— Pragmatic Myths by realization of metaphors and ideas — Allegory — 
Beast-Fable — Conclusion 332 



Eeligious ideas generally appear among low races of Mankind — Negative 
statements on this subject frequently misleading and mistaken: many 
cases uncertain — Minimum definition of Religion — Doctrine of Spiritual 
Beings, here termed Animism — Animism treated as belonging to 
Natural Religion — Animism divided into two sections, the philosophy 
of Souls, and of other Spirits — Doctrine of Souls, its prevalence and 
definition among the lower races — Definition of Apparitional Soul or 
Ghost-Soul — It is a theoretical conception of primitive Philosophy, 
designed to account for phenomena now classed under Biology, espe- 
cially Life and Death, Health and Disease, Sleep and Dreams, Trance 
and Visions — Relation of Soul in name and nature to Shadow, Blood, 
Breath — Division or Plurality of Souls — Soul cause of Life ; its restora- 
tion to body when supposed absent — Exit of Soul in Trances— Dreams 
and Visions : theory of exit of dreamer's or seer's own soul ; theory of 
visits received by them from other souls — Ghost-Soul seen in Appari- 
tions — Wraiths and Doubles- -Soul has form of Body; suffers muti- 
lation with it — Voice of Ghost — Soul treated and defined as of Material 
Substance; this appears to be the original doctrine — Transmission of 
Souls to service in future life by Funeral Sacrifice of wives, attendants, 
etc. — Souls of Animals — Their transmission by Funeral Sacrifice — Souls 
of Plants — Souls of Objects — Their transmission by Funeral Sacrifice 
— Relation of savage doctrine of Object-Souls to Epicurean theory of 
Ideas — Historical development of Doctrine of Souls, from the Ethereal 
Soul of primitive Biology to the Immaterial Soul of modern Theology 




Culture or Civiiization — Its phenomena related according to definite Laws — 
Method of classification and discussion of the evidence — Connexion of 
successive stages of culture by Permanence, Modification, and Survival — 
Principal topics examined in the present work. 

CuLTUEE or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic 
sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, 
art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits 
acquired by man as a member of society. The condition of 
culture among the various societies of mankind, in so far as it 
is capable of being investigated on general principles, is a sub- 
ject apt for the study of laws of human thought and action. On 
the one hand, the uniformity which so largely pervades civiliza- 
tion may be ascribed, in great measure, to the uniform action 
of uniform causes ; v^'hile on the other hand its various grades 
may be regarded as stages of development or evolution, each 
the outcome of previous history, and about to do its proper part 
in shaping the history of the future. To the investigation of 
these two great principles in several departments of ethnography, 
with especial consideration of the civilization of the lower tribes 
as related to the civilization of the higher nations, the present 
volumes ar^ devoted. 

Our modern investigators in the sciences of inorganic nature 
are foremost to recognise, both within and without their special 

VOL. I. B 


fields of work, the unit}^ of nature, the fixity of its laws, the 
definite sequence of cause and effect through which every fact 
depends on what has gone before it, and acts upon what is to 
come after it. They grasp firmly the Pythagorean doctrine of 
pervading order in the universal Kosmos. They affirm, with 
Aristotle, that nature is not . full of incoherent episodes, like a 
bad tragedy. They agree with Leibnitz in wdiat he calls "my 
axiom, that nature never acts by leaps (la nature n'agit jamais 
par saut)," as well as in his "great principle, commonly little 
employed, that nothing happens without its sufficient reason." 
Nor, again, in studying the structure and habits of plants and 
animals, or in investigating the lower functions even of man, 
are these leading ideas unacknowledged. But when we come to 
talk of the higher processes of human feeling and action, of 
thought and language, knowledge and art, a change appears in 
the prevalent tone of opinion. The world at large is scarcely 
prepared to accept the general study of human life as a branch 
of natural science, and to carry out, in a large sense, the poet's 
injunction, to "Account for moral as for natural things." To 
many educated minds there seems something presumptuous and 
repulsive in the view that the history of mankind is part and 
parcel of the history of nature, that our thoughts, wills, and 
actions accord with laws as definite as those which sfovern the 
motion of waves, the combination of acids and bases, and the 
growth of plants and animals. 

The main reasons of this state of the popular judgment are 
not far to seek. There are many who would willingly accept a 
science of history if placed before them with substantial defi- 
niteness of principle and evidence, but who not unreasonably 
reject the systems offered to them, as falling too far short of a 
scientific standard. Through resistance such as this, real know- 
ledge always, sooner or later, makes its v/ay, while the habit of 
opposition to novelty does such excellent service against the 
invasions of speculative dogmatism, that we may sometimes 
even wish it were stronger than it is. But other obstacles to 
the investigation of laws of human nature arise from consider-^ 
ations of metaphysics and theology. The popular notion of free 
human will involves not only freedom to act in accordance with 


motive, but also a power of breaking loose from continuity and 
acting without cause, — a combination which may be roughly 
illustrated by the simile of a balance sometimes acting in the 
usual way, but also possessed of the faculty of turning by itself 
without or aofainst its weiofhts. This view of an anomalous 
action of the will, which it need hardly be said is incompatible 
with scientific argument, subsists as an opinion, patent or latent 
in men's minds, and strongly affecting their theoretic views of 
history, though it is not, as a rule, brought prominently forward 
in systematic reasoning. Indeed the definition of human will, 
as strictly according with motive, is the only possible scientific 
basis in such enquiries. Happily, it is not needful to add here 
yet another to the list of dissertations on supernatural inter- 
vention and natural causation, on liberty, predestination, and 
accountability. We may hasten to escape from the regions of 
transcendental philosophy and theology, to start on a more 
hopeful journe}?- over more practicable ground. None will deny 
that, as each man knows by the evidence of his own conscious- 
ness, definite and natural cause does, to a great extent, deter- 
mine human action. Then, keeping aside from considerations 
of extra-natural interference and causeless spontaneity, let us 
take this admitted existence of natural cause and effect as our 
standing-ground, and travel on it so far as it will bear us. It 
is on this same basis that physical science pursues, with ever- 
increasing success, its quest of laws of nature. Nor need this 
restriction hamper the scientific study of human life, in which 
the real difficulties are the practical ones of enormous com- 
plexity of evidence, and imperfection of methods of obser- 

Now it appears that this view of human will and conduct, as 
subject to definite law, is indeed recognized and acted upon by 
the very people who oppose it when stated in the abstract as a 
general principle, and who then complain that it annihilates 
man's free-will, destroys his sense of personal responsibility, and 
degrades him to a soulless machine. He who will say these 
things will nevertheless pass much of his own life in studying 
the motives which lead to human action, seeking to attain his 
wishes through them, framing in his mind theories of personal 


character, reckoning what are hkely to be. the effects of new 
combinations, and giving to his reasoning the crowning character 
of true scientific inquiry, by taking it for granted that in so far 
as his calculation turns out wrono^, either his evidence must have 
been false or incomplete, or his judgment upon it unsound. 
Such a one will sum up the experience of years spent in com- 
plex relations with society, by declaring his persuasion that there 
is a reason for everything in life, and that where events look 
unaccountable, the rule is to wait and watch in hope that the 
key to the problem may some day be found. This man's observa- 
tion may have been as narrow as his inferences are crude and 
prejudiced, but nevertheless he has been an inductive philosopher 
" more than forty years without knowing it." He has practically 
acknowledged definite laws of human thought and action, and 
has simply thrown out of account in his own studies of life the 
whole fabric of motiveless will and uncaused spontaneity. It 
is assumed here that they should be just so thrown out of 
account in wider studies, and that the true philosophy of history 
lies in extending and improving the methods of the plain people- 
who form their judgments upon facts, and check them upon new 
facts. Whether the doctrine be wholly or but partly true, it 
accepts the very condition under which we search for new knov/- 
ledge in the lessons of experience, and in a word the whole 
course of our rational life is based upon it. 

" One event is always the son of another, and we must never 
forget the parentage," was a remark made by a Bechuana chief 
to Casalis the African missionary. Thus at all times historians, 
so far as they have aimed at being more than mere chroniclers, 
have done their best to show not merely succession, but con- 
nexion, among the events upon their record. Moreover, they have 
striven to elicit general principles of human action, and by these- 
to explain particular events, stating expressly or taking tacitly 
for granted the existence of a philosophy of history. Should 
any one deny the possibility of thus establishing historical laws, 
the answer is ready with which Boswell in such a case turned 
on Johnson : " Then, sir, you would reduce all history to no 
better than an almanack." That nevertheless the labours of so 
many eminent thinkers should have as yet brought history only 


to the threshold of science, need cause no wonder in those who 
consider the bewildering complexity of the problems which 
come before the general historian. The evidence from which 
he is to draw his conclusions is at once so multifarious and so 
doubtful, that a full and distinct view of its bearing on a par- 
ticular question is hardly to be attained, and thus the tempta- 
tion becomes all but irresistible to garble it in support of some 
rough and ready theory of the course of events. The philosophy 
of history at large, explaining the past and predicting the future 
phenomena of man's life in the world by reference to general 
laws, is in fact a subject with which, in the present state of 
knowledge, even genius aided by wide research seems but hardly 
able to cope. Yet there are departments of it which, though 
difficult enough, seem comparatively accessible. If the field of 
inquiry be narrowed from History as a whole to that branch of 
it which is here called Culture, the history, not of tribes or 
nations, but of the condition of knowledge, religion, art, custom, 
and the like among them, the task of investigation proves to 
lie within far more moderate compass. We suffer still from the 
same kind of difficulties which beset the v/ider argument, but 
they are much diminished. The evidence is no longer so wdldly 
heterogeneous, but maybe more simply classified and compared, 
while the power of getting rid of extraneous matter, and treat- 
ing each issue on its own proper set of facts, makes close reason- 
ing on the whole more available than in general history. This 
may appear from a brief preliminary examination of the problem, 
how the phenomena of Culture may be classified and arranged, 
stage by stage, in a probable order of evolution. 

Surveyed in a broad view, the character and habit of mankind 
at once display that similarity and consistency of phenomena 
which led the Italian proverb-maker to declare that " all the 
world is one country," " tutto il mondo e paese." To general 
likeness in human nature on the one hand, and to general 
likeness in the circumstances of life on the other, this similarity 
and consistency may no doubt be traced, and they may be 
studied with especial fitness in comparing races near the same 
grade of civilization. Little respect need be had in such 
comparisons for date in history or for place on the map ; the 


ancient Swiss lake-dweller may be set beside the niediseval 
Aztec, and the Ojibwa of North America beside the Zulu of 
South Africa. As Dr. Johnson contemptuously said when he 
had read about Patagonians and South Sea Islanders in 
Hawkesworth's Voyages, " one set of savages is like another." 
How true a generalization this really is, any Ethnological 
Museum may show. Examine for instance the edged and 
pointed instruments in such a collection ; the inventory includes 
hatchet, adze, chisel, knife, saw, scraper, awl, needle, spear and 
arrow-head, and of these most or all belong with only differences 
of detail to races the most various. So it is with savage 
occupations ; the wood-chopping, fishing with net and line, 
shooting and spearing game, fire-making, cooking, twisting cord 
and plaiting baskets, repeat themselves with wonderful uni- 
formity in the museum shelves which illustrate the life of the 
lower races from Kamchatka to Tierra del Fuego, and from 
Dahome to Hawaii. Even when it comes to comparing 
barbarous hordes with civilized nations, the consideration thrusts 
itself upon our minds, how far item after item of the life of the 
lower races passes into analogous proceedings of the higher, in 
forms not too far changed to be recognized, and sometimes hardly 
changed at all. Look at the modern European peasant using 
his hatchet and his hoe, see his food boilino- or roasting: over the 

> CD O 

log-fire, observe the exact place which beer holds in his calcula 
tion of happiness, hear his tale of the ghost in the nearest 
haunted house, and of the farmer's niece who was bewitched 
with knots in her inside till she fell into fits and died. If we 
choose out in this way things which have altered little in a long 
course of centuries, we may draw a picture where there shall be 
scarce a hand's breadth difference between an English plough- 
man and a negro of Central Africa. These pages will be so 
crowded w^ith evidence of such correspondence among mankind, 
that there is no need to dwell upon its details here, but it may 
be used at once to override a problem which would complicate 
the argument, namely, the question of race. For the present 
purpose it appears both possible and desirable to eliminate^ 
considerations of hereditary varieties or races of man, and^to 
treat mankind as homogeneous in nature, though placed in 


different grades of civilization. The details of the enquiry will, 
I think, prove that stages of culture may be compared without 
taking into account how far tribes who use the same implement, 
follow the same custom, or believe the same myth, may differ 
in their bodily configuration and the colour of their skin and 

A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into 
details, and to classify these in their proper groups. Thus, in 
examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, club, 
sling, bow and arrow, and so forth ; among textile arts are to 
be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of making and 
weaving threads ; myths are divided under such headings as 
myths of sunrise and sunset, eclipse-myths, earthquake-myths, 
local myths which account for the names of places by some 
fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account for the parentage 
of a tribe by turning its name into the name of an imaginary 
ancestor; under rites and ceremonies occur such practices as the 
various kinds of sacrifice tj the ghosts of the dead and to other 
spiritual beings, the turning to the east in worship, the purifica- 
tion of ceremonial or moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. 
Such are a few miscellaneous examples from a list of hundreds, 
and the ethnographer's business is to classify such details with a 
view to making out their distribution in geography and history, 
and the relations which exist among them. What this task is 
like, may be almost perfectly illustrated by comparing these 
details of culture with the species of plants and animals as 
studied by the naturalist. To the ethnographer, the bow and 
aiTow is a species, the habit of flattening children's skulls is a 
species, the practice of reckoning numbers by tens is a species. 
The geographical distribution of these things, and their trans- 
mission from region to region, have to be studied as the 
naturalist studies the geography of his botanical and zoological 
species. Just as certain plants and animals are peculiar to 
certain districts, so it is with such instruments as the Australian 
boomerang, the Polynesian stick- an d-groove for fire-making, the 
tiny bow and arrow used as a lancet or phleme by tribes about 
the Isthmus of Panama, and in like manner with many an art, 
myth, or custom, found isolated in a particular field. Just as 


tlie catalogue of all the species of plants and animals of a 
district represents its Flora and Fauna, so the list of all the 
items of the general life of a people represent that whole which 
we call its culture. And just as distant regions so often 
produce vegetables and animals which are analogous, though by 
no means identical, so it is with the details of the civilization of 
their inhabitants. How good a working analogy there really is 
between the diffusion of plants and animals and the diffusion of 
civilization, comes well into view when we notice how far the 
same causes have produced both at once. In district after 
district, the same causes which have introduced the cultivated 
plants and domesticated animals of civilization, have brought 
in with them a corresponding art and knowledge. The course 
of events which carried horses and wheat to America carried 
with them the use of the gun and the iron hatchet, while in 
return the old world received not only maize, potatoes, and 
turkeys, but the habit of smoking and the sailor's hammock. 

It is a matter worthy of consideration, that the accounts of 
similar phenomena of culture, recurring in different parts of 
the world, actually supply incidental proof of their own authen- 
ticity. Some years since, a question which brings out this 
point was put to me by a great historian — " How can a state- 
ment as to customs, myths, beliefs, &c., of a savage tribe be 
treated as evidence where it depends on the testimony of some 
traveller or missionary, who may be a superficial observer, more 
or less ignorant of the native language, a careless retailer of 
unsifted talk, a man prejudiced, or even wilfully deceitful ? " 
This question is, indeed, one which every ethnographer ought 
to keep clearly and constantly before his mind. Of course he 
is bound to use his best judgment as to the trustworthiness of 
all authors he quotes, and if possible to obtain several accounts 
to certify each point in each locality. But it is over and above 
these measures of precaution, that the test of recurrence comes 
in. If two independent visitors to different countries, say a 
medigeval Mohammedan in Tartary and a modern Englishman ^ 
in Dahome, or a Jesuit missionary in Brazil and a Wesleyan in 
the Fiji Islands, agree in describing some analogous art or rite 
or myth among the people they have visited, it becomes difficult 


or impossible to set down such correspondence to accident or 
wilful fraud. A story by a bushranger in Australia may, per- 
haps, be objected to as a mistake or an invention, but did a 
Methodist minister in Guinea conspire with him to cheat the 
public by telling the same story there 1 The possibility of inten- 
tional or unintentional mystification is often barred by such a 
state of thinofs as that a similar statement is made in two 
remote lands, by two witnesses, of whom A lived a century 
before B, and B appears never to have heard of A. How 
distant are the countries, how wide apart the dates, how 
different the creeds and characters of the observers, in the 
catalogue of facts of civilization, needs no farther showing 
to any one who will even glance at the foot-notes of the 
present work. And the more odd the statement, the less 
likely that several people in several places should have made 
it wrongly. This being so, it seems reasonable to judge that 
the statements are in the main truly given, and that their 
close and regular coincidence is due to the cropping up of 
similar facts in various districts of culture. Now the most im- 
portant facts of ethnography are vouched for in this way. Ex- 
perience leads the student after a while to expect and find that 
the phenomena of culture, as resulting from widely-acting similar 
causes, should recur again and again in the world. He even 
mistrusts isolated statements to which he knows of no parallel 
elsewhere, and waits for their genuineness to be shown by 
corresponding accounts from the other side of the earth, or the 
other end of history. So strong, indeed, is this means of au- 
thentication, that the ethnographer in his library may some- 
times presume to decide, not only whether a particular explorer 
is a shrewd and honest observer, but also whether what he 
reports is conformable to the general rules of civilization. JVon 
quis, sed quid. 

To turn from the distribution of culture in different countries, 
to its diffusion within these countries. The quality of man- 
kind which tends most to make the systematic study of civili- 
zation possible, is that remarkable tacit consensus or agreement 
which so far induces whole populations to unite in the use of the 
same language, to follow the same religion and customary law. 


to settle down to the same general level of art and knowledge. 
It is this state of things which makes it so far possible to 
ignore exceptional facts and to describe nations by a sort of 
general average. It is this state of things which makes it- so 
far possible to represent immense masses of details by a few 
typical facts, while, these once settled, new cases recorded by 
new observers simply fall into their places to prove the sound- 
ness of the classification. There is found to be such regularity 
in the composition of societies of men, that we can drop indi- 
vidual differences out of sight, and thus can generalize on the 
arts and opinions of whole nations, just as, when looking down 
upon an army from a hill, we forget the individual soldier, 
Avhom, in fact, we can scarce distinguish in the mass, while we 
see each regiment as an organized body, spreading or concen- 
trating, moving in advance or in retreat. In some branches 
of the study of social laws it is now possible to call in the aid 
of statistics, and to set apart sj)ecial actions of large mixed 
communities of men by means of taxgatherers' schedules, or 
the tables of the insurance-office. Among modern arguments 
on the laws of human action, none have had a deeper effect 
than generalizations such as those of M. Quetelet, on the regu- 
larity, not onl}^ of such matters as average stature and the 
annual rates of birth and death, but of the recurrence, year 
after year, of such obscure and seemingly incalculable products 
of national life as the numbers of murders and suicides, and 
the proportion of the very weapons of crime. Other striking 
cases are the annual regularity of persons killed accidentally in 
the London streets, and of undirected letters dropped into post- • 
office letter-boxes. But in examining the culture of the lov/er 
races, far from having at command the measured arithmetical 
facts of modern statistics, we may have to judge of the condi- 
tion of tribes from the imperfect accounts supplied by travellers 
or missionaries, or even to reason upon relics of pre-historic races 
of whose very names and languages we are hojjelessly ignorant. 
Now these may seem at the first glance sadly indefinite and 
unpromising materials for a scientific enquiry. But in fact 
they are neither indefinite nor vmpromising, but give evidence 
that is good and definite, so far as it goes. They are data 


which, for the distinct way in which they severally denote the 
condition of the tribe they belong to, will actually bear 
comparison with the statistician's returns. The fact is that 
a stone arrow-head, a carved club, an idol, a grave-mound 
where slaves and property have been buried for the use of the 
dead, an account of a sorcerer's rites in making rain, a table 
of numerals, the conjugation of a verb, are things which each 
express the state of a people as to one particular point of 
culture, as truly as the tabulated numbers of deaths by poison, 
and of chests of tea imported, express in a different way other 
partial results of the general life of a whole community. 

That a whole nation should have a special dress, special tools 
and weapons, special laws of marriage and property, special 
moral and religious doctrines, is a remarkable fact, which we 
notice so little because we have lived all our lives in the midst 
of it. It is with such general qualities of organized bodies of 
men that ethnography has especially to deal. Yet, while 
generalizing on the culture of a tribe or nation, and setting 
aside the peculiarities of the individuals composing it as unim- 
portant to the main result, we must be careful not to forget 
what makes up this main result. There are people so intent on 
the separate life of individuals, that they cannot grasp a notion 
of the action of a community as a whole — such an observer, in- 
capable of a wide view of society, is aptly described in the say- 
ing that he "cannot see the forest for the trees." But, on the 
other hand, the philosopher may be so intent upon his general 
laws of society as to neglect the individual actors of whom that 
society is made up, and of him it may be said that he cannot 
see the trees for the forest. We know how arts, customs, and 
ideas are shaped among ourselves by the combined actions of 
many individuals, of which actions both motive and effect often 
come quite distinctly within our view. The history of an inven- 
tion, an opinion, a ceremony, is a history of suggestion and 
modification, encouragement and opposition, personal gain and 
party prejudice, and the individuals concerned act each accord- 
ing to his own motives, as determined by his character and 
circumstances. Thus sometimes we watch individuals acting 
for their own ends with little thought of their effect on society 


at large, and sometimes we have to study movements of 
national life as a whole, where the individuals co-operating in 
them are utterly beyond our observation. But seeing that 
collective social action is the mere resultant of many individual 
actions, it is clear that these two methods of enquiry, if rightly 
followed, must be absolutely consistent. 

In studying both the recurrence of special habits or ideas in 
several districts, and their prevalence within each district, there 
come before us ever-reiterated proofs of regular causation pro- 
ducing the phenomena of human life, and of laws of mainten- 
ance and diffusion according to which these phenomena settle 
into permanent standard conditions of society, of definite stages 
of calture. But, while giving full importance to the evidence 
bearing on these standard conditions of society, let us be careful 
to avoid a pitfall which may entrap the unwar}^ student. Of 
course, the opinions and habits belonging in common to 
masses of mankind are to a great extent the results of sound 
judgment and practical wisdom. But to a great extent it is not 
so. That many numerous societies of men should have believed 
in the influence of the evil eye and the existence of a firma- 
ment, should have sacrificed slaves and goods to the ghosts of 
the departed, should have handed down traditions of giants 
slaying monsters and men turning into beasts — all this is 
ground for holding that such ideas were indeed produced in men's 
minds by efficient causes, but it is not ground for holding that 
the rites in question are profitable, the beliefs sound, and the 
history authentic. This may seem at the first glance a truism, 
but, in fact, it is the denial of a fallacy which deeply affects the 
minds of all but a small critical minority of mankind. Popularly, 
what everybody says must be true, what everybody does must be 
right — " Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum 
est, hoc est vere proprieque Catholicum " — and so forth. There 
are various topics, especially in history, law, philosophy, and 
theology, where even the educated people we live among can 
hardly be brought to see that the cause why men do hold an 
opinion, or practise a custom, is by no means necessarily 'a 
reason why they ought to do so. Now collections of ethno- 
graphic evidence, bringing so prominently into view the agree- 


ment of immense multitudes of men as to certain traditions, 
beliefs, and usages, are peculiarly liable to be thus improperly- 
used in direct defence of these institutions themselves, even old 
barbaric nations being polled to maintain their opinions against 
what are called modern ideas. As it has more than once hap- 
pened to myself to find my collections of traditions and beliefs 
thus made to prove their own objective truth, without proper 
examination of the grounds on which they were actually re- 
ceived, I take this occasion of remarking that the same line of 
argument will serve equally well to demonstrate, by the strong 
and wide consent of nations, that the earth is flat, and night- 
mare the visit of a demon. 

It being shown that the details of Culture are capable of 
being classified in a great number of ethnographic groujDS of 
arts, beliefs, customs, and the rest, the consideration comes 
next how far the facts arranged in these groups are produced by 
evolution from one another. It need hardly be pointed out 
that the groups in question, though held together each by a 
common character, are by no means accurately defined. To 
take up again the natural history illustration, it may be said 
that they are species which tend to run widely into varieties. 
And when it comes to the question what relations some of these 
groups bear to others, it is plain that the student of the habits 
of mankind has a great advantage over the student of the species 
of plants and animals. Among naturalists it is an open question 
whether a theory of development from species to species is a 
record of transitions which actually took place, or a mere ideal 
scheme serviceable in the classification of species whose origin 
was really independent. But among ethnographers there is no 
siich question as to the possibility of species of implements or 
habits or beliefs being developed one out of another, for develop- 
ment in culture is recognized by our most familiar knowledge. 
Mechanical invention supplies apt examples of the kind of de- 
velopment which affects civilization at large. In the history of 
fire-arms, the clumsy Avheel-lock, in which a notched steel 
wheel was turned by a handle against the flint till a spark 
caught the priming, led to the invention of the more serviceable 
flint-lock, of which a few still hang in the kitchens of our farm- 


houses, for the boys to shoot small birds with at Christmas ; the 
flint-lock in time passed by an obvious modification into the 
percussion-lock, which is just now changing its old-fashioned 
arrangement to be adapted from muzzle-loading to breech- 
loading. The mediseval astrolabe passed into the quadrant, now 
discarded in its turn b}^ the seaman, who uses the more delicate 
sextant, and so on through the history of one art and instrument 
after another. Such examples of progression are known to us 
as direct history, but so thoroughly is this notion of develop- 
ment at home in our minds, that by means of it we reconstruct 
lost history without scruple, trusting to general knowledge of 
the principles of human thought and action as a guide in putting 
the facts in their proper order. Whether chronicle speaks or is 
silent on the point, no one comparing a long-bov/ and a cross- 
bow would doubt that the cross-bow was a development arising 
from the simpler instrument. So among the savage fire-drills 
for igniting by friction, it seems clear on the face of the matter 
that the drill worked by a cord or bow is a later improvement 
on the clumsier primitive instrument twirled between the 
hands. That instructive class of specimens which antiquaries 
sometimes discover, bronze celts modelled on the heavy type of 
the stone hatchet, are scarcely explicable except as first steps in 
the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, to be 
followed soon by the next stage of progress, in which it is dis- 
covered that the new material is suited to a handier and less 
wasteful pattern. And thus, in 'the other branches of our 
history, there will come again and again into view series of facts 
which may be consistently arranged as having followed one 
another in a particular order of development, but which will 
hardly bear being turned round and made to follow in reversed 
order. Such for instance are the facts I have here brought 
forward in a chapter on the Art of Counting, which tend to 
prove that as to this point of culture at least, savage tribes 
reached their position by learning and not by unlearning, by 
elevation from a lower rather than by degradation from a higher 
state. ' ) 

Among evidence aiding us to trace the course which the civili- 
zation of the world has actually followed, is that great class of 


facts to denote which I have found it convenient to introduce the 
term " survivals." These are processes, customs, opinions, and so 
forth, which have been carried on by force of habit into a new 
state of society different from that in which they had their 
■original home, and they thus remain as proofs and examples of 
an older condition of culture out of which a newer has been 
evolved. Thus, I know an old Somersetshire woman whose hand- 
loom dates from the time before the introduction of the " flying 
shuttle," which new-fangled appliance she has never even learnt 
to use, and I have seen her throw her shuttle from hand to 
hand in true classic fashion ; this old woman is not a century 
behind her times, but she is a case of survival. Such examples 
often lead us back to the habits of hundreds and even thousands 
of years ago. The ordeal of the Key and Bible, still in use, is 
a survival ; the Midsummer bonfire is a survival ; the Breton 
peasants' All Souls' supper for the spirits of the dead is a 
survival. The simple keeping up of ancient habits is only one 
part of the transition from old into new and changing times. 
The serious business of ancient society may be seen to sink into 
the sport of later generations, and its serious belief to linger 
on in nursery folk-lore, while superseded habits of old-world 
life may be modified into new- world forms still powerful for 
good and evil. Sometimes old thoughts and practices will burst 
out afresh, to the amazement of a world that thought them 
long since dead or dying ; here survival passes into revival, as 
has lately happened in so remarkable a way in the history of 
modern spiritualism, a subject full of instruction from the 
ethnographer's point of view. The study of the principles of 
survival has, indeed, no small practical importance, for most of 
what we call superstition is included within survival, and in this 
way lies open to the attack of its deadliest enemy, a reasonable 
explanation. Insignificant, moreover, as multitudes of the facts 
of survival are in themselves, their study is so effective for trac- 
ing the course of the historical development through which alone 
it is possible to understand their meaning, that it becomes a 
vital point of ethnographic research to gain the clearest possible 
insight into their nature. This importance must justify the 
detail here devoted to an examination of survival, on the 


evidence of such games, popular sayings, customs, superstitions^ 
and the like, as may serve well to bring into viev/ the manner 
of its operation. 

Progress, degradation, survival, revival, modification, are all 
modes of the connexion that binds together the complex net- 
work of civilization. It needs but a glance into the trivial 
details of our own daily life to set us thinking how far we are 
really its originators, and how far but the transmitters and modi- 
fiers of the results of long past ages. Looking round the rooms 
we live in, we may try here how far he who only knows his own 
time can be capable of rightly comprehending even that. Here 
is the honeysuckle of Assyria, there the fleur-de-lis of Anjou, a 
cornice with a Greek border runs round the ceiling, the style of 
Louis XIV. and its parent the Renaissance share the looking- 
glass between them. Transformed, shifted, or mutilated, such 
elements of art still carry their history plainly stamped upon 
them ; and if the history yet farther behind is less easy to read, 
we are not to say that because we cannot clearly discern it 
there is therefore no history there. It is thus even with the 
fashion of the clothes men wear. The ridiculous little tails of 
the German postillion's coat show of themselves how they came 
to dwindle to such absurd rudiments ; but the English clergy- 
man's bands no longer so convey their history to the eye, and 
look unaccountable enough till one has seen the intermediate 
stages through which they came down from the more service- 
able wide collars, such as Milton wears in his portrait, and 
which gave their name to the "band-box" they used to be kept 
in. In fact the books of costume, showing how one garment 
grew^ or shrank by gradual stages and passed into another, 
illustrate with much force and clearness the nature of the 
change and growth, revival and decay, which go on from year 
to year in more important matters of life. In books, again, we 
see each writer not for and by himself, but occupying his proper 
place in history ; we look through each philosopher, mathema- 
tician, chemist, poet, into the background of his education, — 
through Leibnitz into Descartes, through Dalton into Priestley^ 
through Milton into Homer. The study of language has, per- 
haps, done more than any other in removing from our view of 


human thought and action the ideas of chance and arbitrary 
invention, and in substituting for them a theory of development 
by the co-operation of individual men, through processes ever 
reasonable and intelligible where the facts are fully known. 
Rudimentary as the science of culture still is, the symptotas are 
becoming very strong that even what seem its most spontaneous 
and motiveless phenomena will, nevertheless, be shown to come 
within the range of distinct cause and effect as certainly as the 
facts of mechanics. What would be popularly thought more 
indefinite and uncontrolled than the products of the imagina- 
tion in myths and fables ? Yet any systematic investigation of 
mythology, on the basis of a wide collection of evidence, will 
show plainly enough in such efforts of fancy at once a develop- 
ment from stage to stage, and a production of uniformity of 
result from uniformity of cause. Here, as elsewhere, causeless 
spontaneity is seen to recede farther and farther into shelter 
within the dark precincts of ignorance ; like chance, that still 
holds its place among the vulgar as a real cause of events other- 
wise unaccountable, while to educated men it has long con- 
sciously meant nothing but this ignorance itself. It is only 
when men fail to see the line of connexion in events, that they 
are prone to fall upon the notions of arbitrary impulses, cause- 
less freaks, chance and nonsense and indefinite unaccountability. 
If childish games, purposeless customs, absurd superstitions are 
set down as spontaneous because no one can say exactly how 
they came to be, the assertion may remind us of the like effect 
that the eccentric habits of the wild rice-plant had on the phi- 
losophy of a Red Indian tribe, otherwise disposed to see in the 
harmoay of nature the effects of one controlling personal will. 
The Great Spirit, said these Sioux theologians, made all things 
except the wild rice ; but the wild rice came by chance. 

" Man," said Wilhelm von Humboldt, '^ ever connects on from 
what lies at hand (der Mensch knlipft immer an Yorhandenes 
an)." The notion of the continuity of civilization contained in this 
maxim is no barren philosophic principle, but is at once made 
practical by the consideration that they who wish to understand 
their own lives ought to know the stages through which their 
opinions and habits have become what they are. Auguste 
VOL. r. o 


Comte scarcely overstated the necessity of this study of 
development, when he declared at the beginning of his 
* Positive Philosophy' that " no conception can be understood 
except through its history," and his phrase will bear extension 
to culture at large. To expect to look modern life in the face 
and comprehend it by mere inspection, is a kind of philosophy 
chat can easily be tested. Imagine any one explaining the 
trivial saying, "a little bird told me," without knowing of the 
old belief in the language of birds and beasts, to which Dr. 
Dasent, in the introduction to the Norse Tales, so reasonably 
traces its origin. To ingenious attempts at explaining by the 
light of reason things which want the light of history to show 
their meaning, much of the learned nonsense of the world has 
indeed been due. Mr. Maine, in his 'Ancient Law,' gives a 
perfect instance. In all the literature which enshrines the 
pretended philosophy of law, he remarks, there is nothing more 
curious than the pages of elaborate sophistry in which Black- 
stone attempts to explain and justify that extraordinary rule of 
English law, only recently repealed, which prohibited sons of 
the same father by different mothers from succeeding to one 
another's land. To Mr. Maine, knowing the facts of the case, 
it was easy to explain its real origin from the " Customs of 
Normandy," where according to the system of agnation, or 
kinship on the male side, brothers by the same mother but by 
different fathers were of course no relations at all to one 
another. But when this rule " was transplanted to England, 
the English judges, who had no clue to its principle, interpreted 
it as a general prohibition against the succession of the half- 
blood, and extended it to consanguineous brothers, that is to 
sons of the same father by different wives." Then, ages after, 
Blackstone sought in this blunder the perfection of reason, and 
found it in the argument that kinship through both parents 
ought to prevail over even a nearer degree of kinship through 
but one parent ^. Such are the risks that philosophers run in 

^ Blackstone, 'Commentaries.' "As every man's own blood is compounded 
of the bloods of his respective ancestors, he only is properly of the whole or 
entire blood with another, who hath (so far as the distance of degrees will permit), 
all the same ingredients in the composition of his blood that the other hath," etc. 


detaching any phenomenon of civilization from its hold on past 
events, and treating it as an isolated fact, to be simply disposed 
of by a guess at some plausible explanation. 

In carrying on the great task of rational ethnography, the 
investigation of the causes which have produced the phenomena 
of culture, and the laws to which they are subordinate, it is 
desirable to work out as systematically as possible a scheme of 
evolution of this culture along its many lines. In the following 
chapter, on the Development of Culture, an attempt is made to 
sketch a theoretical course of civilization among mankind, such 
as appears on the whole most accordant with the evidence. By 
comparing the various stages of civilization among races known 
to history, with the aid of archaeological inference from the 
remains of pre-historic tribes, it seems possible to judge in a 
rough way of an early general condition of man, which from our 
point of view is to be regarded as a primitive condition, what- 
ever yet earlier state may in reality have lain behind it. This 
hypothetical primitive condition corresponds in a considerable 
degree to that of modern savage tribes, who, in spite of their 
difference and distance, have in common certain elements of 
civilization, which seem remains of an early state of the human 
race at large. If this hypothesis be true, then, notwithstanding 
the continual interference of degeneration, the main tendency 
of culture from primaeval up to modern times has been from 
savagery towards civilization. On the problem of this relation 
of savage to civilized life, almost every one of the thousands of 
facts discussed in the succeeding chapters has its direct bearing. 
Survival in Culture, placing all along the course of advancing 
civilization way-marks full of meaning to those who can 
decipher their signs, even now sets up in our midst primaeval 
monuments of barbaric thought and life. Its investigation tells 
strongly in favour of the view that the European may find 
among the Greenlanders or Maoris many a trait for reconstruct- 
ing the picture of his own primitive ancestors. Next comes 
the problem of the Origin of Language. Obscure as many parts 
of this problem still remain, its clearer positions lie open to the 
investigation, whether speech took its origin among mankind in 
the savage state, and the result of the enquiry is that, consis- 

c 2 


tently with all known evidence, this may have been the case. 
From the examination of the Art of Counting a far more definite 
consequence is shown. It may be confidently asserted, that 
not only is this important art found in a rudimentary state 
among savage tribes, but that satisfactory evidence proves 
numeration to have been developed by rational invention from 
this low stage up to that in which we ourselves possess it. The 
examination of Mythology which concludes the first volume, is 
for the most part made from a special point of view, on evidence 
collected for a special purpose, that of tracing the relation 
between the myths of savage tribes and their analogues among 
more civilized nations. The issue of such enquiry goes far to 
prove that the earliest myth-maker arose and flourished among 
savage hordes, setting on foot an art which his more cultured, 
successors would carry on, till its results came to be fossilized in. 
superstition, mistaken for history, shaped and draped in poetry,, 
or cast aside as lying folly. 

Nowhere, perhaps, are broad views of historical development 
more needed than in the study of religion. JN'otwithstanding- 
all that has been written to make the world acquainted with 
the lower theologies, the popular ideas of their place in history 
and their relation to the faiths of higher nations are still of the 
mediaeval type. It is v/onderful to contrast some missionar}^ 
journals with Max Miiller's Essays, and to set the unappreciating 
hatred and ridicule that is lavished by narrow hostile zeal on 
Brahmanism, Buddhism, Zoroastrism, beside the catholic sym- 
pathy with which deep and wide knowledge can survey those 
ancient and noble phases of man's religious consciousness ; 
nor, because the religions of savage tribes may be rude i.nd 
primitive, compared with the great Asiatic systems, do th^^y 
lie too low for interest and even for respect. The questioja. 
really lies between understanding and misunderstanding them. 
Few who will give their minds to master the general principles 
of savage religion will ever again think it ridiculous, or the 
knowledge of it superfluous to the rest of mankind. Far from 
its beliefs and practices being a rubbish-heap of miscellaneous 
folly, they are consistent and logical in so high a degi'ee as to 
begin, as soon as even roughly classified, to display the prin- 


ciples of their formation and development ; and these principles 
prove to he essentially rational, though working in a mental 
condition of intense and inveterate ignorance. It is with a 
sense of attempting an investigation which bears very closely on 
the current theology of our own day, that I have set myself to 
examine systematically, among the lower races, the develop- 
ment of Animism ; that is to say, the doctrine of souls and 
other spiritual beings in general. The second volume of this 
work is in great part occupied with a mass of evidence from all 
regions of the world, displaying the nature and meaning of 
this great element of the Philosophy of Eeligion, and tracing 
its transmission, expansion, restriction, modification, along the 
course of history into the midst of our own modern thought. 
Nor are the questions of small practical moment which have 
to be raised in a similar attempt to trace the development of 
certain prominent Rites and Ceremonies — customs so full of in- 
struction as to the inmost powers of religion, whose outward 
expression and practical result they are. 

In these investigations, however, made rather from an ethno- 
graphic than a theological point of view, there has seemed 
little need of entering into direct controversial argument, 
which indeed I have taken pains to avoid as far as possible. 
The connexion which runs through religion, from its rudest 
forms up to the status of an enlightened Christianity, may be 
conveniently treated of with little recourse to dogmatic theo- 
logy. The rites of sacrifice and purification may be studied in 
their stages of development without entering into questions of 
their authority and value, nor does an examination of the 
successive phases of the world's belief in a future life demand 
a. discussion of the arguments that may be adduced upon it for 
our own conviction. Such ethnographic results may then be 
left as materials for professed theologians, and it will not per- 
haps be long before evidence so fraught with meaning shall 
take its legitimate place. To fall back once again on the 
analogy of natural history, the time may soon come when it will 
be thought as unreasonable for a scientific student of theology 
not to have a competent acquaintance with the principles of the 
religions of the lower races, as for a physiologist to look with 


the contempt of fifty years ago on evidence derived from the 
lower forms of life, deeming the structure of mere invertebrate 
creatures matter unworthy of his philosophic study. 

Not merely as a matter of curious research, but as an impor- 
tant practical guide to the understanding of the present, and 
the shaping of the future, the investigation into the origin and 
early development of civilization must be pushed on zealously. 
Every possible avenue of knowledge must be explored, every 
door tried to see if it is open. No kind of evidence need be left 
untouched on the score of remoteness or complexity, of minute- 
ness or triviality. The tendency of modern enquiry is more and 
more toward the conclusion that if law is anywhere, it is every- 
where. To despair of what a conscientious collection and study 
of facts may lead to, and to declare any problem insoluble, 
because difficult and far off, is distinctly to be on the wrong 
side in science ; and he who will choose a hopeless task may set 
himself to discover the limits of discovery. One remembers 
Comte starting in his account of astronomy with a remark on 
the necessary limitation of our knowledge of the stars : we 
conceive, he tells us, the possibility of determining their 
form, distance, size, and movement, whilst we should never by 
any method be able to study their chemical composition, their 
mineralogical structure, &c. Had the philosopher lived to see 
the application of spectrum analysis to this very problem, his 
proclamation of the dispiriting doctrine of necessary ignorance 
would perhaps have been recanted in favour of a more hopeful 
view. And it seems to be with the philosophy of remote 
human life somewhat as with the study of the nature of the 
celestial bodies. The processes to be made out in the early 
stages of our mental evolution lie distant from us in time as the 
stars lie distant from us in space, but the laws of the universe 
are not limited with the direct observation of our senses. There 
is vast material to be used in our enquiry ; many workers are 
now busied in bringing this material into shape, though little may 
have yet been done in proportion to what remains to do ; and 
already it seems not too much to say that the vague outlines of 
a philosophy of primseval history are beginning to come within 
our view. 



Stages of culture, industrial, intellectual, political, moral — Development of 
culture in great measure corresponds with transition from savage through 
barbaric to civilized life — Progression-theory — Degeneration-theory ■ — • 
Development-theory includes both, the one as primary, the other as secon- 
dary — Historical and traditional evidence not available as to low stages of 
culture — Historical evidence as to principles of Degeneration — Ethnological 
evidence as to rise and fall in culture, from comparison of different levels of 
culture in branches of the same race — Extent of historically recorded anti- 
quity of civilization — Prehistoric Archaeology extends the antiquity of man in 
low stages of civilization — Traces of Stone Age, corroborated by megalithic 
structures, lake-dwellings, shell-heaps, burial-places, &c., combine to prove 
original low culture throughout the world— Stages of progi-essive Develop- 
ment in industrial arts. 

In taking up the problem of tlie development of culture as a 
branch of ethnological research, a first proceeding is to obtain a 
means of measurement. Seeking something like a definite line 
along which to reckon progression and retrogression in civiliza- 
tion, we may apparently find it best in the classification of real 
tribes and nations, past and present. Civilization actually exist- 
ing among mankind in different grades, we are enabled to esti- 
mate and compare it by positive examples. The educated world 
of Europe and America practically settles a standard by simply 
placing its own nations at one end of the social series and 
savao^e tribes at the other, arrans^ina- the rest of mankind 
between these limits according as they correspond more closely 
to savage or to cultured life. The principal criteria of classifica- 
tion are the absence or presence, high or low development, of 
the industrial arts, especially metal- working, manufacture of 
implements and vessels, agriculture, architecture, &c., the extent 
of scientific knowledge, the definiteness of moral principles, the 


condition of religious belief and ceremony, the degree of social 
and political organization, and so forth. Thus, on the definite 
basis of compared facts, ethnographers are able to set up at 
least a rough scale of civilization. Few would dispute that the 
following races are arranged rightly in order of culture : — 
Australian, Tahitian, Aztec, Chinese, Italian. By treating 
the development of civilization on this plain ethnographic 
basis, many difficulties may be avoided which have embarrassed 
its discussion. This may be seen by a glance at the relation 
which theoretical principles of civilization bear to the transi- 
tions to be observed as matter of fact between the extremes of 
savage and cultured life. 

From an ideal point of view, civilization may be looked upon 
as the general improvement of mankind by higher organization 
of the individual and of society, to the end of promoting at 
once man's goodness, power, and happiness. This theoretical 
civilization does in no small measure correspond with actual 
civilization, as traced by comparing savagery with barbarism, 
and barbarism with modern educated life. So far as we take 
into account only material and intellectual culture, this is 
especially true. Acquaintance with the physical laws of the 
world, and the accompanying power of adapting nature to 
man's own ends, are, on the w^hole, lowest among savages, mean 
among barbarians, and highest among modern educated nations. 
Thus a transition from the savage state to our own would be, 
practically, that very progress of art and knowledge which is 
one main element in the development of culture. 

But even those students who hold most strongly that the general 
course of civilization, as measured along the scale of races from 
savages to ourselves, is progress toward the benefit of mankind, 
must admit many and manifold exceptions. Industrial and in- 
tellectual culture by no means advances uniformly in all its 
branches, and in fact excellence in various of its details is often 
obtained under conditions which keep back culture as a whole. 
It is true that these exceptions seldom swamp the general rule ; 
and the Englishman, admitting that he does not climb trees ^ 
like the wild Australian, nor track game like the savage of the 
Brazilian forest, nor compete with the ancient Etruscan and the 


modern Chinese in delicacy of goldsmith's work and ivory 
carving, nor reach the classic Greek level of oratory and sculp- 
ture, may yet claim for himself a general condition above any 
of these races. But there actually have to be taken into 
account developments of science and art which tend directly 
against culture. To have learnt to give poison secretl}^ and 
effectually, to have raised a corrupt literature to pestilent per- 
fection, to have organized a successful scheme to arrest free 
enquiry and proscribe free expression, are works of knowledge 
and skill whose progress toward their goal has hardly conduced 
to the general good. Thus, even in comparing mental and 
artistic culture among several peoples, the balance of good and 
ill is not quite easy to strike. 

If not only knowledge and art, but at the same time moral 
and political excellence, be taken into consideration, it becomes 
yet harder to reckon on an ideal scale the advance or decline 
from stage to stage of culture. In fact, a combined intellectual 
and moral measure of human condition is an instrument w^hich 
no student has as yet learnt properly to handle. Even granting 
that intellectual, moral, and political life may, on a broad view, 
be seen to progress together, it is obvious tha,t they are far from 
advancing with equal steps. It may be taken as man's rule of 
duty in the world, that he shall strive to know as well as he can 
find out, and to do as v/ell as he kiiows how. But the parting 
asunder of these two great principles, that separation of intelli- 
gence from virtue which accounts for so much of the wrong- 
doing of mankind, is continually seen to happen in the great 
movements of civilization. As one conspicuous instance of 
wnat all history stands to prove, if we study the early ages of 
Christianity, we may see men v^^ith minds pervaded by the new 
religion of duty, holiness, and love, yet at the same time 
actually falling away in intellectual life, thus at once vigor- 
ously grasping one half of civilization, and contemptuously 
casting oft' the other. Whether in high ranges or in low of 
human life, it may be seen that advance of culture seldom 
results at once in unmixed good. Courage, honesty, generosity, 
are virtues which may sufter, at least for a time, by the develop- 
ment of a sense of value of life and property. The savage who 


adopts something of foreign civilization too often loses his ruder 
virtues without gaining an equivalent. The white invader or 
colonist, though representing on the whole a higher moral 
standard than the savage he improves or destroys, often repre- 
sents his standard very ill, and at best can hardly claim to 
substitute a life stronger, nobler, and purer at every point than 
that which he supersedes. The onward movement from bar- 
barism has dropped behind more than one quality of barbaric 
character, which cultured modern men look back on with regret, 
and will even strive to regain by futile attempts to stop the course 
of history, and restore the past in the midst of the present. So 
it is with social institutions. The slavery recognized by savage 
and barbarous races is preferable in kind to that which existed 
for centuries in late European colonies. The relation of the 
sexes among many savage tribes is more healthy than among 
the richer classes of the Mohammedan world. As a supreme 
authority of government, the savage councils of chiefs and 
elders compare favourably with the unbridled despotism under 
which so many cultured races have groaned. The Creek 
Indians, asked concerning their religion, replied that where 
agreement was not to be had, it was best to "let every man 
paddle his canoe his own way:" and after long ages of theo- 
logical strife and persecution, the modern world seems coming 
to think these savages not far wrong. 

Among accounts of savage life, it is not, indeed, uncommon 
to find details of admirable moral and social excellence. To 
take one prominent instance, Lieut. Bruijn Kops and Mr. 
Wallace have described, among the rude Papuans of the 
Eastern Archipelago, a habitual truthfulness, rightfulness, and 
kindliness which it would be hard to match in the general 
moral life of Persia or India, to say nothing of many a civilized 
European district.^ Such tribes may count as the " blameless' 
Ethiopians " of the modern world, and from them an impor- 
tant lesson may be learnt. Ethnographers who seek in modern 
savages types of the remotely ancient human race at large, are 
bound by such examples to consider the rude life of primgeval 
man under favourable conditions to have been, in its measure, a 

1 G. "W. Eail, 'Papuans,' p. 79 ; A. R. Wallace, 'Eastern Archipelago.' 


good and happy life. Nevertheless, the pictures drawn by some 
travellers of savagery as a kind of paradisaical- state are mostly 
taken too exclusively from the bright side. It is remarked as to 
these very Papuans, that Europeans whose intercourse with 
them has been hostile become so impressed with the wild-beast- 
like cunning of their attacks, as hardly to believe in their having 
feelings in common v/ith civilized men. Our Polar explorers 
may well speak in kindly terms of the industry, the honesty, 
the cheerful considerate politeness of the Esquimaux ; but it 
must be remembered that these rude people are on their best 
behaviour with foreigners, and that their character is apt to be 
foul and brutal where they have nothing to expect or fear. The 
Caribs are described as a cheerful, modest, courteous race, and 
so honest among themselves that if they missed anything out 
of a house they said quite naturally, "There has been a 
Christian here." Yet the malignant ferocity with which these 
estimable people tortured their prisoners of war with knife and 
firebrand and red pepper, and then cooked and ate them in 
solemn debauch, gave fair reason for the name of Carib (Canni- 
bal) to become the generic name of man-eaters in European 
languages.^ So when we read descriptions of the hospitality, 
the gentleness, the bravery, the deep religious feeling of the 
North American Indians, we admit their claims to our sincere 
admiration ; but we must not forget that they were hospitable 
literally to a fault, that their gentleness would pass with a flash 
of anger into frenzy, that their bravery was stained with cruel 
and treacherous malignity, that their religion expressed itself in 
absurd belief and useless ceremony. The ideal savage of the 
I8th century might be held up as a living reproof to vicious and 
frivolous London ; but in sober fact, a Londoner who should 
attempt to lead the atrocious life which the real savage may 
lead with impunity and even respect, would be a criminal only 
allowed to follow his savage models during his short intervals 
out of gaol. Savage moral standards are real enough, but they 
are far looser and weaker than ours. We may, I think, apply the 
often-repeated comparison of savages to children as fairly to 
their moral as to their intellectual condition. The better savage 

* Rochefort, ' lies Antilles,' pp. 400—480. 


social life seems in but unstable equilibrium, liable to be easily 
upset by a touch of distress, temptation, or violence, and then 
it becomes the worse savage life, which we know by so many 
dismal and hideous examples. Altogether, it may be admitted 
that some rude tribes lead a life to be envied by some barbar- 
ous races, and even by the outcasts of higher nations. But that 
any known savage tribe would not be improved by judicious 
civilization, is a proposition which no moralist would dare to 
make ; while the general tenour of the evidence goes far to 
justify the view that on the whole the civilized man is not only 
wiser and more capable than the savage, but also better and 
happier, and that the barbarian stands between. 

It might, perhaps, seem practicable to compare the whole 
average of the civilization of two peoples, or of the same people 
in different ages, by reckoning each, item by item, to a sort of 
sum-total, and striking a balance between them, much as an 
appraiser com^pares the value of two stocks of merchandise, 
differ as they may both in quantity and quality. But the few 
remarks here made will have shown how loose must be the 
working-out of these rough-and-ready estimates of culture. In 
fact, much of the labour spent in investigating the progress and 
decline of civilization has been mis-spent, in premature at- 
tempts to treat that as a whole which is as yet only susceptible 
of divided study. The present comparatively narrow argument 
on the development of culture at any rate avoids this greatest 
perplexity. It takes cognizance principally of knowledge, art, 
and custom, and indeed only very partial cognizance within 
this field, the vast range of physical, political, social, and ethical 
considerations being left all but untouched. Its standard of 
reckoning progress and decline is not that of ideal good and 
evil, but of movement along a measured line from grade to 
grade of actual savagery, barbarism, and civilization. The thesis 
which I venture to sustain, within limits, is simply this, that 
the savage state in some measure represents an early condition 
of mankind, out of which the higher culture has gradually 
been developed or evolved, by processes still in regular opera- 
tion as of old, the result showing that, on the whole, progress 
has far prevailed over relapse. 


On this proposition, the main tendency of human society 
during its long term of existence has been to pass from a 
savage to a civilized state. Now all must admit a great part of 
this assertion to be not only truth, but truism. Keferred to 
direct history, a great section of it proves to belong not to the 
domain of speculation, but to that of positive knowledge. It is 
mere matter of chronicle that modern civilization is a develop- 
ment of mediseval civilization, which again is a development 
from civilization of the order represented in Greece, Assyria, or 
Egypt. Thus the higher culture being clearly traced back to 
what may be called the middle culture, the question which 
remains is, whether this middle culture may be traced back to 
the lower culture, that is, to savagery. To affirm this, is merely 
to assert that the same kind of development in culture which 
has gone on inside our range of knowledge has also gone' on 
outside it, its course of proceeding being unaffected by our 
having or not having reporters present. If any one holds that 
human thought and action were worked out in primaeval times 
according to laws essentially other than those of the modern 
world, it is for him to prove by valid evidence this anomalous 
state of things, otherwise the doctrine of permanent principle 
will hold good, as in astronomy or geology. That the tendency 
of culture has been similar throughout the existence of human 
society, and that we may fairly judge from its known historic 
course what its pre-historic course may have been, is a theory 
clearly entitled to precedence as a fundamental principle of 
ethnographic research. 

Gibbon, in his ' Roman Empire,' expresses in a few vigorous 
sentences his theory of the course of culture, as from savagery 
upward. Judged by the knowledge of nearly a century later, 
his remarks cannot, indeed, pass unquestioned. Especially he 
seems to rely with misplaced confidence on traditions of archaic 
rudeness, to exaggerate the lowness of savage life, to under- 
estimate the liability to decay of the ruder arts, and in his view 
of the effect of high on low civilization, to dwell too exclusively 
on the brighter side. But, on the whole, the great historian's 
judgment seems so substantially that of the unprejudiced 
modern student of the progressionist school, that I gladly quote 


the passage here at length, and take it as a text to represent 
the development-theory of culture : — " The discoveries of 
ancient and modern navigators, and the domestic history, or 
tradition, of the most enlightened nations, represent the 
human savage naked both in mind and body, and destitute 
of laws, of arts, of ideas, and almost of language. From this 
abject condition, perhaps the primitive and universal state of 
man, he has gradually arisen to command the animals, to 
fertilise the earth, to traverse the ocean, and to measure the 
heavens. His progress in the improvement and exercise of his 
mental and corporeal faculties has been irregular and various ; 
infinitely slow in the beginning, and increasing by degrees with 
redoubled velocity : ages of laborious ascent have been followed 
by a moment of rapid downfall ; and the several climates of the 
globe have felt the vicissitudes of light and darkness. Yet the 
experience of four thousand years should enlarge our hopes, 
and diminish our apprehensions : we cannot determine to what 
height the human species may aspire in their advances towards 
perfection ; but it may safely be presumed that no people, un- 
less the face of nature is changed, will relapse into their 
original barbarism. The improvements of society may be 
viewed under a threefold aspect. 1. The poet or philosopher 
illustrates his age and countr}^ by the efforts of a sm^Ze.mind ; 
but these superior powers of reason or fancy are rare and 
spontaneous productions ; and the genius of Homer, or Cicero, 
or Newton, would excite less admiration, if they could be 
created by the will of a prince, or the lessons of a preceptor. 
2. The benefits of law and policy, of trade and manufactures, 
of arts and sciences, are more solid and permanent; and many 
individuals may be qualified, by education and discipline, to 
promote, in their respective stations, the interest of the com- 
munity. But this general order is the effect of skill and 
labour ; and the complex machinery may be decayed by time, 
or injured by violence. 3. Fortunately for mankind, the more 
useful, or, at least, more necessary arts, can be performed with- 
out superior talents, or national subordination; without the 
powers of one, or the union of 'many. Each village, each 
family, each individual, must always possess both ability and 


inclination to perpetuate the use of fire and of metals ; the 
propagation and service of domestic animals ; the methods of 
hunting and fishing ; the rudiments of navigation ; the im- 
perfect cultivation of corn, or other nutritive grain ; and the 
simple practice of the mechanic trades. Private genius and 
public industry may be extirpated ; but these hardy plants 
survive the tempest, and strike an everlasting root into the 
most unfavourable soil. The splendid days of Augustus and 
Trajan were eclipsed by a cloud of ignorance ; and the bar- 
barians subverted the laws and palaces of Rome. But the 
scythe, the invention or emblem of Saturn, still continued 
annually to mow the harvests of Italy ; and the human feasts 
of the Leestrigons have never been renewed on the coast of 
Campania. Since the first discovery of the arts, war, commerce, 
and religious zeal, have diffused, among the savages of the Old 
and New World, these inestimable gifts ; they have been suc- 
cessively propagated ; they can never be lost. We may there- 
fore acquiesce in the pleasing conclusion, that every age of the 
world has increased, and still increases, the real wealth, the 
happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human 
race. ^ 

This progression-theory of civilization may be contrasted with 
its rival, the degeneration-theory, in the dashing invective of 
Count Joseph de Maistre, written toward the beginning of this 
century. " Nous partons toujours," he says, " de I'hypothese 
banale que I'homme s'est eleve graduellement de la barbarie k 
la science et a la civilisation. C'est le reve favori, c'est I'erreur- 
mere, et comme dit I'ecole, le proto-pseudes de notre siecle. 
Mais si les philosophes de ce malheureux siecle, avec I'horrible 
perversite que nous leur avons connue, et qui s'obstinent encore 
malgr^ les avertissements qu'ils ont re9us, avaient possed^ de 
plus quelques-unes de ces connaissances qui ont du necessaire- 
ment appartenir aux premiers hommes, &c."^ The degeneration- 
theory, which this eloquent antagonist of "modern ideas" 
indeed states in an extreme shape, has received the sanction 
of men of great learning and ability. It has practically resolved 

* Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Koman Empire,' ch. xxxviii. 
^ De Maistre, * Soirees de St. Petersbourg,' vol. ii. p. 150. 


itself into two assumptions, first, that the history of culture 
began, with the appearance on earth of a semi-civilized race of 
men, and second, that from this stage culture has proceeded in 
two ways, backward to produce savages, and forward to produce 
civilized men. The idea of the original condition of man being 
one of more or less high culture, must have a certain pro- 
minence given to it on account of its considerable hold on 
public opinion. As to definite evidence, however, it does not 
seem to have any ethnological basis whatever. Indeed, I 
scarcely think that a stronger counter-persuasion could be used 
on an intelligent student inclined to the ordinary degeneration- 
theory than to induce him to examine critically and impartially 
the arguments of the advocates on his own side. It must be 
borne in mind, however, that the grounds on which this theory 
has been held have generally been rather theological than 
ethnological. The strength of the position it has thus occupied 
may be well instanced from the theories adopted by two 
eminent French writers of the last century, which in a remark- 
able way piece together a belief in degeneration and an argu- 
ment for progression. De Brosses, whose whole intellectual 
nature turned to the progression-theory, argued that by studying 
what actually now happens "we may trace men upward from 
the savage state to which the flood and dispersion had reduced 
them."^ And Goguet, holding that the pre-existing arts 
perished at the deluge, was thus left free to work out on the 
most thorough-going progressionist principles his theories of the 
invention of fire, cooking, agriculture, law, and so forth, among 
tribes thus reduced to a condition of low savagery.^ At the 
present time it is not unusual for the origin of civilization to be 
treated as matter of dogmatic theology. It has happened to 
me more than once to be assured from the pulpit that the 
theories of ethnologists who consider man to have risen from a 
low original condition are delusive fancies, it being revealed 
truth that man was originally in a high condition. Now as a 
matter of Biblical criticism it must be remembered that a large 

^ De Brosses, 'Dieux Fetiches,' p. 15; 'Formation des Langues,' voL i. p. 49; 
voL ii. p. 32. 
2 Goguet, ' Origine des Lois, des Arts,' etc., vol, i. p. S8. 


proportion of modern theologians are far from accepting such a 
dogma. But in investigating the problem of early civilization, 
the claim to ground scientific opinion upon a basis of revelation 
is in itself objectionable. It would be, I think, inexcusable 
if students who have seen in Astronomy and Geology the un- 
happy results of attempting to base science on religion, should 
countenance a similar attempt in Ethnology. 

By long experience of the course of human society, the prin^ 
ciple of development in culture has become so ingrained in our 
philosophy that ethnologists, of whatever school, hardly doubt 
but that, whether by progress or degradation, savagery and 
civilization are connected as lower and higher stages of one 
formation. As such, then, two principal theories claim to ac- 
count for their relation. As to the first hypothesis, which takes 
savage life as in some sort representing an early human state 
whence higher states were, in time, developed, it has to be 
noticed that advocates of this progression-theory are apt to look 
back toward yet lower original conditions of mankind. It has 
been truly remarked that the modern naturalist's doctrine of 
progressive development has encouraged a train of thought 
singularly accordant with the Epicurean theory of man's early 
existence on earth, in a condition not far removed from that of 
the lower animals. On such a view, savage life itself would be 
a far advanced condition. If the advance of culture be regarded 
as taking place along one general line, then existing savagery 
stands directly intermediate between animal and civilized life ; 
if along different lines, then savagery and civilization may be 
considered as, at least, indirectly connected through their com- 
mon origin. The method and evidence here employed are not, 
however, suitable for the discussion of this remoter part of the 
problem of civilization. Nor is it necessary to enquire how, 
under this or any other theory, the savage state first came to 
be on earth. It is enough that, by some means or other, it has 
actually come into existence ; and so far as it may serve as a 
guide in inferring an early condition of the human race at 
large, so far the argument takes the very practicable shape of 
a discussion turning rather on actual than imaginary states of 
society. The second hypothesis, which regards higher culture 

VOL. I. D 


as original, and the savage condition as produced from it by a 
course of degeneration, at once cuts the hard knot of the origin 
of culture. It takes for granted a supernatural interference, as 
where Archbishop Whately simply refers to miraculous revela- 
tion that condition above the level of barbarism which he con- 
siders to have been man's original state.^ It may be incidentally 
remarked, however, that the doctrine of original civilization 
bestowed on man by divine intervention, by no means neces- 
sarily involves the view that this original civilization was at a 
high level. Its advocates are free to choose their starting-point 
of culture above, at, or below the savage condition, as may on 
the evidence seem to them most reasonable. 

The two theories which thus account for the relation of 
savage to cultured life may be contrasted according to their 
main character, as the progression -theory and the degradation- 
theory. Yet of course the progression-theory recognizes degra- 
dation, and the degradation-theory recognizes progression, as 
powerful influences in the course of culture. Under proper 
limitations the principles of both theories are conformable to 
historical knowledge, which shows us, on the one hand, that the 
state of the higher nations was reached by progression froin a 
lower state, and, on the other hand, that culture gained by pro- 
gression may be lost by degradation. If in this enquiry we 
should be obliged to end in the dark, at any rate we need not 
begin there. History, taken as our guide in explaining the 
different stages of civilization, offers a theory based on actual 
experience. This is a development-theory, in which both ad- 
vance and relapse have their acknowledged places. But so far 
as history is to be our criterion, progression is primary and 
degradation secondary ; culture must be gained before it can 
be lost. Moreover, in striking a balance between the effects of 
forward and backward movement in civilization, it must be 
borne in mind how powerfully the diffusion of culture acts in 
preserving the results of progress from the attacks of degene- 
ration. A progressive movement in culture spreads, and be- 
comes independent of the fate of its originators. What is 

^ Whately, * Essay on the Origin of Civilization,' in Miscellaneous Lectures, 
etc. See also W. Cooke Taylor, * Natural History of Society.' 


produced in some limited district is diffused over a wider and 
wider area, where the process of effectual " stamping out " be- 
comes more and more difficult. Thus it is even possible for 
the habits and inventions of races long extinct to remain as the 
common property of surviving nations ; and the destructive 
actions which make such havoc with the civilizations of par- 
ticular districts fail to destroy the civilization of the world. 

The enquiry as to the relation of savagery to barbarism and 
semi-civilization lies almost entirely in prse-historic or extra- 
historic regions. This is of course an unfavourable condition, 
and must be frankly accepted. Direct history hardly tells any- 
thing of the changes of savage culture, except where in contact 
with and under the dominant influence of foreign civilization, a 
state of things which is little to our present purpose. Periodical 
examinations of low races otherwise left isolated to work out 
their own destinies, would be interesting evidence to the student 
of civilization if they could be made ; but unfortunately they 
cannot. The lower races, wanting documentary memorials, 
loose in preserving tradition, and ever ready to clothe myth in 
its shape, can seldom be trusted in their stories of long-past 
ages. History is oral or written record which can be satisfac- 
torily traced into contact Vv'ith the events it describes ; and 
perhaps no account of the course of culture in its lower stages 
can satisfy this stringent criterion. Traditions may be urged in 
suppoii; either of the progression-theory or of the degradation- 
theory. These traditions may be partly true, and must be 
partly untrue ; but whatever truth or untruth they may con- 
tain, there is such difficulty in separating man's recollection of 
what was from his speculation as to what might have been, that 
ethnology seems not likely to gain much by attempts to judge 
of early stages of civilization on a traditional basis. The pro- 
blem is one which has occupied the philosophic mind even in 
savage and barbaric life, and has been solved by speculations 
asserted as facts, and by traditions which are, in great measure, 
mere realized theories. The Chinese can show, with all due 
^avity, the records of their ancient dynasties, and tell us how 
"n old times their ancestors dwelt in caves, clothed themselves 
n leaves, and ate raw flesh, till, under such and such rulers, 

J) 2 


they were taught to build huts, prepare skins for garments, and 
make fire.-^ Lucretius can describe to us, in his famous lines, 
the large-boned, hardy, lawless, primaeval race of man, living 
the roving life of the wild beasts which he overcame with stones 
and heavy clubs, devouring berries and acorns, ignorant as yet 
of fire, and agiiculture, and the use of skins for clothing. From 
this state the Epicurean poet traces up the development of 
culture, beginning outside but ending inside the range of human 
memory.^ To the same class belong those legends which, starting 
from an ancient savage state, describe its elevation by divine 
civilizers : this, which inay be called the supernatural pro- 
gression-theory, is exemplified in the familiar culture-traditions 
of Peru and Italy. 

But other minds, following a different ideal track from 
the present to the past, have seen in a far different shape 
the early stages of human life. Those men whose eyes are 
always turned to look back on the wisdom of the ancients, 
those who by a common confusion of thought ascribe to men of 
old the wisdom of old men, those who hold fast to some once- 
honoured scheme of life which new schemes are superseding 
before their eyes, are apt to carry back their thought of present 
degeneration into far-gone ages, till they reach a period of 
primaeval glory. The Parsi looks back to the happy rule of 
King Yima, when men and cattle were immortal, when water 
and trees never dried up and food was inexhaustible, when 
there was no cold nor heat, no envy nor old age.^ The Bud- 
dhist looks back to the age of glorious soaring beings who had 
no sin, no sex, no want of food, till the unhappy hour when, 
tasting a delicious scum that formed upon the surface of th-^ 
earth, they fell into evil, and in time became degraded to eat 
rice, to bear children, to build houses, to divide property, and to 
establish caste. In after ages, record preserves details of the 
continuing course of degeneration. It was King Chetiya who 
told the first lie, and the citizens who heard of it, not knowing 
what a lie was, asked if it were white, black, or blue. Men's 
lives grew shorter and shorter, and it was King Maha Sagara 

^ Goguet, vol. iii. p. 270. ^ Lucret. v. 923, etc. ; see Hor. Sat. i. 3. 

3 ' Avesta,* tmns. Spiegel & Bleeck, vol. ii. p. 50. 


who, after a brief reign of 252,000 years, made the dismal 
discovery of the first grey hair.^ 

Admitting the imperfection of the historical record as regards 
the lowest stages of culture, we must bear in mind that it tells 
both ways. Niebuhr, attacking the progressionists of the 18th 
century, remarks that they have overlooked the fact " that no 
single example can be brought forward of an actually savage 
people having independently become civilized."^ Whately 
appropriated this remark, which indeed forms the kernel of his 
well-known Lecture on the Origin of Civilization : " Facts 
are stubborn things," he says, " and that no authenticated 
instance can be produced of savages that ever did emerge, 
unaided, from that state is no theory, but a statement, hitherto 
never disproved, of a matter of fact.'" He uses this as an 
argument in support of his general conclusion, that man 
could not have risen independently from a savage to a 
civilized state, and that savages are degenerate descendants 
of civilized men.^ But he omits to ask the counter-question, 
whether we find one recorded instance of a civilized people fall- 
ing independently into a savage state ? Any such record, direct 
and well vouched, would be of high interest to ethnologists, 
though, of course, it would not contradict the development- 
theory, for proving loss is not disproving previous gain. But 
where is such a record to be found ? The defect of historical 
evidence as to the transition between savagery and higher 
culture is a two-sided fact, only half taken into Archbishop 
Whately 's one-sided argument. Fortunately the defect is by 
no means fatal. Though history may not account directly for 
tae existence and explain the position of savages, it at least 
gives evidence which bears closely on the matter. Moreover, 
we are in various ways enabled to study the lower course of 
culture on evidence which cannot have been tampered with to 
support a theory. Old traditional lore, however untrustworthy 
as direct record of events, contains most faithful incidental 

1 Hardy, * Manual of Budhism,' pp. 64, 128. 

2 Niebulir, ' Rbmische Geschichte,' part i. p. 88 : "Nur das haben sie iiber- 
seben, dasz kein einziges Beyspiel von einem wirklich "wilden Volk aufzuweisen 
ist, welches frey zur Cultur iibergegangen ware." 

3 Whately, * Essay on Origin of Civilization.' 


descriptions of manners and customs ; archaeology displays old 
structures and buried relics of the remote past ; philology 
brings out the undesigned history in language, which genera- 
tion after generation have handed down without a thought of 
its having such significance; the ethnological survey of the 
races of the world tells much ; the ethnographical comparison 
of their condition tells more. 

Arrest and decline in civilization are to be recognized as 
among the more frequent and powerful operations of national 
life. That knowledge, arts, and institutions should decay in 
certain districts, that peoples once progressive should lag 
behind and be passed by advancing neighbours, that some- 
times even societies of men should recede into rudeness and 
misery — all these are phenomena with which modern history is 
familiar. In judging of the relation of the lower to the higher 
stages of civilization, it is essential to gain some idea how far it 
may have been affected by such degeneration. What kind of 
evidence can direct observation and history give as to the 
degradation of men from a civilized condition toward that of 
savagery? In our great cities, the so-called " dangerous classes" 
are sunk in hideous misery and depravity. If we have to strike 
a balance between the Papuans of New Caledonia and the 
communities of European beggars and thieves, we may sadly 
acknowledge that we have in our midst something worse than 
savagery. But it is not savagery ; it is broken-down civilization. 
Negatively, the inmates of a Whitechapel casual ward and of a 
Hottentot kraal agree in their want of the knowledge and 
virtue of the higher culture. But positively, their mental and 
moral characteristics are utterly different. Thus, the savage 
life is essentially devoted to gaining subsistence from nature, 
which is just what the proletarian life is not. Their relations 
to civilized life — the one of independence, the other of de- 
pendence — are absolutely opposite. To my mind the popular 
phrases about " city savages " and " street Arabs " seem like 
comparing a ruined house to a builder's yard. It is more to 
the purpose to notice how war and misrule, famine and pestir 
lence, have again and again devastated countries, reduced their 
population to miserable remnants, and lowered their level of 


civilization, and how the isolated life of wild country districts 
seems sometimes tending toward a state of savagery. So far as 
we know, however, none of these causes have ever really 
reproduced a savage community. For an ancient account of 
degeneration under adverse circumstances, Ovid's mention of 
the unhappy colony of Tomi on the Black Sea is a case in 
point, though perhaps not to be taken too literally. Among its 
mixed Greek and barbaric population, harassed and carried off 
into slavery by the Sarmatian horsemen, much as the Persians 
of to-day are by the Turkomans, the poet describes the neglect 
of the gardener's craft, the decay of textile arts, the barbaric 
clothing of hides. 

" Nee tamen hsee loca sunt ullo pretiosa metallo : 

Hostis ab agricola vix sinit ilia fodi. 
Purpura ssepe tuos fulgens prsetexit amictus. 

Sed non Sarmatico tingitur ilia mari. 
Vellera dura ferunt pecudes, et Palladis uti 

Arte Tomitanee non didicere nurus. 
Pemina pro lana Cerialia munera frangit, 

Suppositoque gravem vertice portat aquam. 
Non hie pampineis amicitur vitibus ulmus, 

Nulla premunt ramos pondere poma sue. 
Tristia deformes pariunt absinthia campi, 

Terraque de fructu quam sit amara, docet." ^ 

Cases of exceptionally low civilization in Europe may perhaps 
be sometimes accounted for by degeneration of this kind. But 
they seem more often the relics of ancient unchanged bar- 
barism. The evidence from wild parts of Ireland two or three 
centuries ago is interesting from this point of view. Acts of 
Parliament were passed against the inveterate habits of fasten- 
ing ploughs to the horses' tails, and of burning oats from the 
straw to save the trouble of threshing. In the 18th century 
Ireland could still be thus described in satire : — 

" The Western isle renowned for bogs, 
For tories and for great wolf-dogs, 
For drawing hobbies by the tails, 
And threshing corn with fiery flails." ^ 

1 Ovid. Ex Ponto, iii. 8 ; see Grote, ' Histoiy of Greece,' vol. xii. p" 641. 

2 "VV. C. Taylor, * Nat. Hist, of Society,' vol. i. p. 202. 


Fynes Moryson's description of the wild or " meere " Irish, 
about 1600, is amazing. The very lords of them, he sa3^s, 
dwelt in poor clay houses, or cabins of boughs covered with turf. 
In many parts men as well as women had in very winter time but 
a linen rag about the loins and a woollen mantle on their bodies, 
so that it would turn a man's stomach to see an old woman in 
the morning before breakfast. He notices their habit of burn- 
ing oats from the straw, and making cakes thereof They had 
no tables, but set their meat on a bundle of grass. They feasted 
on fallen horses, and seethed pieces of beef and pork with the 
unw^ashed entrails of beasts in a hollow tree, lapped in a raw 
cow's hide, and so set over the fire, and they drank milk warmed 
with a stone first cast into the fire.^ Another district remarkable 
for a barbaric simplicity of life is the Hebrides. In 1868 Mr. 
Walter Morrison there bought from an old woman at Stornoway 
the service of earthenware she was actually using, of which he 
gave me a crock. These earthen vessels, unglazed and made by 
hand without the potter's wheel, might pass in a museum as 
indifferent specimens of savage manufacture. Such a modern 
state of the potter's art in the Hebrides fits well with George 
Buchanan's statement in the 16th century that the islanders 
used to boil meat in the beast's own paunch or hide.^ Early 
in the 18th century Martin mentions as prevalent there the 
ancient way of dressing corn by burning it dexterously from the 
ear, which he notices to be a very quick process, thence called 
"graddan" {Gnelic, grad = quick).^ Thus we see that the habit 
of burning out the grain, for which the " meere Irish " were 
reproached, was really the keeping up of an old Keltic art, not 
without its practical use. So the appearance in modern Keltic 
districts of other widespread arts of the lower culture — hide- 
boiling, like that of the Scythians in Herodotus, and stone- 
boiling, like that of the Assinaboins of North America — seems 

FN-nes Morysoii, * Itinerar}'- ; ' Loudon, 1617, part iii, p. 162, etc. ; Evans in 
' Arch33ologia,' vol. xli. See description of hide-boiling, etc., among the wild 
Irish about 1550, in Andrew Boorde, 'Introduction of Knowledge,' ed. by F. J. 
Furnivall, Early English Text Soc. 1870. 

2 Buchanan, * Kerum Scoticarum Historia;' Edinburgh, 1528, p. 7. See ' 
' Early History of Mankind,' 2nd ed. p. 272. 

- Martin, 'Description of Western Islands,' in Pinkerton, vol. iii. p. 639. 


to fit not SO well with degradation from a high as with survival 
from a low civilization. The Irish and the Hebrideans had been 
for ages under the influence of comparatively high civilization, 
which nevertheless may have left unaltered much of the older 
and ruder habit of the people. 

Instances of civilized men taking to a wild life in outlying 
districts of the world, and ceasing to obtain or want the ap- 
pliances of civilization, give more distinct evidence of degrada- 
tion. In connexion with this state of things takes place the 
nearest known approach to an independent degeneration from a 
civilized to a savage state. This happens in mixed races, whose 
standard of civilization may be more or less below that of the 
higher race. The mutineers of the Bounty, with their Poly- 
nesian wives, founded a rude but not savage community on 
Pitcairn's Island.^ The mixed Portuguese and native races of 
the East Indies and Africa lead a life below the European 
standard, but not a savage life." The Gauchos of the South 
American Pampas, a mixed European and Indian race of 
equestrian herdsmen, are described as sitting about on ox- 
skulls, making broth in horns with hot cinders heaped round, 
living on meat without vegetables, and altogether leading a foul, 
brutal, comfortless, degenerate, but not savage life.^ One step 
beyond this brings us to the cases of individual civilized men 
being absorbed in savage tribes and adopting the savage life, on 
which they exercise little influence for improvement ; the 
children of these men may come distinctly under the category 
of savages. These cases of mixed breeds, however, do not show 
a low culture actually produced as the result of degenera- 
tion from a high one. Their theory is that, given a higher 
and a lower civilization existing among two races, a mixed race 
between the two may take to the lower or an intermediate 

Degeneration probably operates even more actively in the 

^ ' Mutiny of the Bounty,' etc. 

2 Wallace, 'Malay Archipelago,' vol. i. pp. 42, 471 ; vol. ii. pp. 11, 43, 48 ; 
Latham, ' Descr. Eth.,' vol. ii. pp. 492-5 ; D. & C. Livingstone, 'Exp. to Zambesi,' 
p. 45. 

^ Southey, 'History of Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 422. 


lower than in the higher culture. Barbarous nations and savage 
hordes, with their less knowledge and scantier appliances, would 
seem peculiarly exposed to degrading influences. In Africa, for 
instance, there seems to have been in modern centuries a 
falling off in culture, probably due in a considerable degree to 
foreign influence. Mr. J. L. Wilson, contrasting the 16th and 
17th century accounts of powerful negro kingdoms in West 
Africa with the present small communities, with little or no 
tradition of their forefathers' more extended political organiza- 
tion, looks especially to the slave-trade as the deteriorating 
cause.^ In South-east Africa, also, a comparatively high barbaric 
culture, which we especially associate with the old descriptions 
of the kingdom of Monomotapa, seems to have fallen away, and 
the remarkable ruins of buildings of hewn stone fitted without 
mortar indicate a former civilization above that of the present 
native population.^ In North America, Father Charlevoix 
remarks of the Iroquois of the last century, that in old times 
they used to build their cabins better than other nations, and 
better than they do themselves now ; they carved rude figures 
in relief on them ; but since in various expeditions almost all 
their villages have been burnt, they have not taken the trouble 
to restore them in their old condition.^ The degradation of the 
Cheyenne Indians is matter of history. Persecuted by their 
enemies the Sioux, and dislodged at last even from their fortified 
village, the heart of the tribe was broken. Their numbers were 
thinned, they no longer dared to establish themselves in a 
permanent abode, they gave up the cultivation of the soil, and 
became a tribe of wanderino: hunters, with horses for their onlv 
valuable possession, which every year they bartered for a supply 
of corn, beans, pumpkins, and European merchandise, and then 
returned into the heart of the prairies.* When in the Kocky 
Mountains, Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle came upon an outly- 
ing fragment of the Shush wap race, without horses or dogs, 

1 J. L. Wilson, ' W. Afr.,' p. 189. 

2 Waitz, ' Anthropologie, ' vol. ii. p. 359, see 91 ; Du Chaillu, * Asliango-Iand,^' 
p. 116. J 

3 Charlevoix, '^N'ouvelle France,' vol. vi. p. 51. 
^ Irving, 'Astoria,' vol. ii. ch. v. 


sheltering themselves under rude temporary slants of bark or 
matting, falling year by year into lower misery, and rapidly 
dying out ; this is another example of the degeneration which 
no doubt has lowered or destroyed many a savage people.^ 
There are tribes who are the very outcasts of savage life. There 
is reason to look upon the miserable Digger Indians of North 
America and the Bushmen of South Africa as the persecuted 
remnants of tribes who have seen happier days.^ The traditions 
of the lower races of their ancestors' better life may sometimes 
be real recollections of a not far distant past. The Algonquin 
Indians look back to old days as to a golden age when life was 
better than now, when they had better laws and leaders, and 
manners less rude.^ And indeed, knowing what we do of their 
history, we may admit that they have cause to remember in 
misery happiness gone by. Well, too, might the rude Kamchadal 
declare that the world is growing worse and worse, that men 
are becoming fewer and viler, and food scarcer, for the hunter, 
and the bear, and the reindeer are hurrying away from here 
to the happier life in the regions below."^ It would be a valuable 
contribution to the study of civilization to have the action of 
decliae and fall investigated on a wider and more exact basis of 
evidence than has yet been attempted. The cases here stated 
are probably but part of a long series which might be brought 
forward to prove degeneration in culture to have been, by no means 
indeed the primary cause of the existence of barbarism and 
savagery in the world, but a secondary action largely and deeply 
affecting the general development of civilization. It may per- 
haps give no unfair idea to compare degeneration of culture, 
both in its kind of operation and in its immense extent, to 
denudation in the geological history of the earth. 

In judging of the relations between savage and civilized life, 
something may be learnt by glancing over the divisions of the 
human race. For this end the classification by families of 

^ Milton and Cheadle, * North West Passage by Land,' p. 241 ; Waitz, vol. iii. 
pp. 74-6. 

■^ * Early History of Mankind,' p. 187. 
3 Schoolcraft, *Algic Res.,' vol. i. p. 50. 
^ Stellar, ' Kamtschatka,' p. 272. 


languages may be conveniently used, if checked by the evidence 
of bodily characteristics. No doubt speech by itself is an 
insufficient guide in tracing national descent, as witness the 
extreme cases of Jews in England, and three-parts negro races 
in the West Indies, nevertheless speaking English as their 
mother-tongue. Still, under ordinary circumstances, connexion 
of speech does indicate more or less connexion of ancestral race. 
As a guide in tracing the history of civilization, language gives 
still better evidence, for common language to a great extent 
involves common culture. The race dominant enough to main- 
tain or impose its language, usually more or less maintains or 
imposes its civilization also. Thus the common descent of the 
languages of Hindus, Greeks, and Teutons is no doubt due in 
great measure to common ancestry, but is still more closely bound 
up with a common social and intellectual history, with what 
Professor Max Miiller well calls their " spiritual relationship." 
The wonderful permanence of language often enables us to 
detect among remotely ancient and distant tribes the traces of 
connected civilization. How, on such grounds, do savage and 
civilized tribes appear to stand related within the various 
groups of mankind connected historically by the possession of 
kindred languages ? 

The Semitic family, which represents one of the oldest known 
civilizations of the world, includes Arabs, Jews, Phoenicians, 
Syrians, etc., and may have an older as well as a newer con- 
nexion in North Africa. This family takes in some rude tribes, 
but none which would be classed as savages. The Aryan family 
has existed in Asia and Europe certainly for several thousand 
years, and there are well-known and well-marked traces of its . 
early barbaric condition, which has perhaps survived with 
least change among secluded tribes in the valleys of the Hindu 
Kush and Himalaya. There seems, again, no known case of 
any full Aryan tribe having become savage. The Gypsies and 
other outcasts are, no doubt, partly Aryan in blood, but their 
degraded condition is not savagery. In India there are tribes 
Aryan by language, but whose physique is rather of indigenous) 
type, and whose ancestry is mainly from indigenous stocks with 
more or less mixture of the dominant Hindu. Some tribes 


coming under tliis category, as among the Bhils and Kulis of 
the Bombay Presidency, speak dialects which are Hindi in 
vocabulary at least, whether or not in grammatical structure, 
and yet the people themselves are lower in culture than some 
Hinduized nations who have retained their original Dravidian 
speech, the Tamils for instance. But these all appear to stand at 
higher stages of civilization than such wild forest tribes of the 
peninsula as can be reckoned even nearly savages, who are non- 
Aryan both in blood and speech.^ In Ceylon, however, we seem 
to have the remarkable phenomenon of a distinctly savage race 
speaking an Aryan dialect. This is the wild part of the race of 
Veddas or '' hunters," of whom a remnant still inhabit the forest 
land. These people are dark-skinned and flat-nosed, slight of 
frame, and very small of skull, and five feet is a full average 
man s height. They are a shy, harmless, simple people, living 
principally by hunting ; they lime birds, take fish by poisoning 
the water, and are skilful in getting wild honey ; they have 
bows with iron-pointed arrows, which, with their hunting dogs, 
are their most valuable possessions. They dwell in caves or 
bark huts, and their very word for a house is Singhalese for a 
hollow tree (rukula) ; Sb patch of bark was formerly their dress, 
but now a bit of linen hangs to their waist-cords ; their planting 
of patches of ground is said to be recent. They count on their 
fingers, and produce fire with the simplest kind of fire-drill 
twirled by hand. They are most truthful and honest. Their 
monogamy and conjugal fidelity contrast strongly with the 
opposite habits of the more civilized Singhalese. A remarkable 
Vedda marriage custom sanctioned a man's taking his younger 
(not elder) sister as his wife ; sister-marriage existing among 
the Singhalese, but being confined to the royal family. Mis- 
taken statements have been made as to the Yeddas having no 
religion, no personal names, no language. Their religion, in 
fact, corresponds with the animism of the ruder tribes of India ; 
some of their names are remarkable as being Hindu, but not in 
use among the modern Singhalese ; their language is described as 
a kind of Singhalese patois, peculiar in dialect and utterance. 

^ See G. Campbell, * Ethnology of India,' in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 18GG, 
part ii. 


There is no doubt attaching to the usual opinion that the Yeddas 
are in the main descended from the "^^akkos" or demons ; i. e., 
from the indigenous tribes of the island. Legend and language 
concur to make probable an admixture of Aryan blood accom- 
panying the adoption of Aryan speech, but the evidence of 
bodily characteristics shows the Yedda race to be principally of 
indigenous prse-Aryan type.^ 

The Tatai- family of Northern Asia and Europe (Turanian, 
if the word be used in a restricted sense), displays evidence of 
quite a different kind. This wide-lying group of tribes and 
nations has members nearly or quite touching the savage level 
in ancient and even modern times, such as Ostyaks, Tunguz, 
Samoyeds, Lapps, while more or less high ranges of culture are 
represented by Mongols, Turks, and Hungarians. Here, how- 
ever, it is unquestionable that the rude tribes represent the 
earlier condition of the Tatar race at large, from which its 
more mixed and civilized peoples, mostly by adopting the 
foreign culture of Buddhist, Moslem, and Christian nations, and 
partly by internal development, are well known to have risen. 
The ethnology of South-Eastern Asia is somewhat obscure ; but 
if we may classify under one heading the native races of Siam, 
Birma, etc., the wilder tribes may be considered as representing 
earlier conditions, for the higher culture of this region is ob- 
viously foreign, especially of Buddhist origin. The Malay race 
is also remarkable for the range of civilization represented by 
tribes classed as belonging to it. If the wild tribes of the 
Malayan peninsula and Borneo be compared with the semi- 
civilized nations of Java and Sumatra, it appears that part of 
the race survives to represent an early savage state, while part 
is found in possession of a civilization which the first glance 
shows to have been mostly borrowed from Hindu and Moslem 
sources. Some forest tribes of the peninsula seem to be repre- 
sentatives of the Malay race at a very low level of culture, how 
far original and how^ far degraded it is not easy to say. Among 
them the very rude Orang Sabimba, who have no agriculture 

^ J. Bailey, 'Yeddahs,' in Tr. Etli. Soc, voL ii. p. 278 ; see vol. iii. p. 70. 
Compare Robert Knox, 'Historical Relation of Ceylon.' London, 1681, part iii. 
chap. i. ; Sir J. E. Tennent, * Ceylon,' etc. 


and no boats, give a remarkable account of themselves, that 
they are descendants of shipwrecked Malays from the Bugis 
country, but were so harassed by pirates that they gave up 
civilization and cultivation, and vowed not to eat fowls, which 
betrayed them by their crowing. So they plant nothing, but 
eat wild fruit and vegetables, and all animals but the fowl. 
This, if at all founded on fact, is an interesting case of degenera- 
tion. But savages usually invent myths to account for peculiar 
habits, as where, in the same district, the Biduanda Kallang 
account for their not cultivating the ground by the story that 
their ancestors vowed not to make plantations. Another rude 
people of the Malay peninsula are the Jakuns, a simple, kindly 
race, among whom some trace their pedigree to a pair of white 
monkeys, while others declare that they are descendants of white 
men ; and indeed there is some ground for supposing these latter 
to be really of mixed race, for they use a few Portuguese words, 
and a report exists of some refugees having settled up the 
country.^ The Polynesians, Papuans, and Australians represent 
grades of savagery spread each over its own vast area in a com- 
paratively homogeneous way. Lastly, the relations of savagery to 
higher conditions are remarkable, but obscure, on the American 
continents. There are several great linguistic families whose 
members were discovered in a savage state throughout : such are 
the Esquimaux, Algonquin, and Guarani groups. On the other 
hand there were three apparently unconnected districts of semi- 
civilization reaching a high barbaric level, viz., in Mexico and 
Central America, Bogota, and Peru. Between these higher and 
lower conditions were races at the level of the Natchez of 
Louisiana and the ApaJ aches of Florida. Linguistic connexion 
is not unknown between the more advanced peoples and the 
lower races around them.^ But definite evidence showing the 

^ Journ. Ind. Archip., voL i. pp. 295-9 ; vol. ii. p. 237. 

2 For the connexion between the Aztec language and the Sonoran family ex- 
tending N.W. toward the sources of the Missouri, see Biischmann, 'Spuren der 
Aztekischen Sprache im NOrdlichen Mexico,' etc., in Abh. der Akad. der 
Wissensch. 1854 ; Berlin, 1859 ; also Tr. Eth. Soc, vol. ii. p. 130. For the 
connexion between the Natchez and Maya languages, see Daniel G. Brinton, in 
'American Historical Magazine,' 1867, vol. i. p. 16 ; and 'Myths of the New 
World,' p. 28. 


higher culture to have arisen from the lower, or the lower to 
have fallen from the higher, is scarcely forthcoming. Both ope- 
rations may in degree have happened. 

It is apparent, from such general inspection of this ethnological 
problem, that it would repay a far closer study than it has as yet 
received. As the evidence stands at present, it appears that 
when in any race some branches much excel the rest in culture, 
this more often happens by elevation than by subsidence. But 
this elevation is much more apt to be produced by foreign than 
by native action. Civilization is a plant much oftener propagated 
than developed. As regards the lower races, this accords with 
the results of European intercourse with savage tribes during 
the last three or four centuries ; so far as these tribes have sur- 
vived the process, they have assimilated more or less of Euro- 
pean culture and risen towards the European level, as in Poly- 
nesia, South Africa, South America. Another important point 
becomes manifest from this ethnological survey. The fact that, 
during so many thousand years of known existence, neither the 
Aryan nor the Semitic stock appears to have thrown off any 
direct savage offshoot recognizable by the age-enduring test of 
language, tells, with some force, against the probability of de- 
gradation to the savage level ever happening from high-level 

With regard to the opinions of older writers on early civiliza- 
tion, whether progressionists or degenerationists, it must be 
borne in mind that the evidence at their disposal fell far short 
of even the miserably imperfect data now accessible. Criticizing 
an 18th century ethnologist is like criticizing an 18th century 
geologist. The older writer may have been far abler than his 
modern critic, but he had not the same materials. Especially 
he wanted the guidance of Prehistoric Archaeology, a depart- 
ment of research only established on a scientific footing within 
the last few years. It is essential to gain a clear view of the 
bearing of this newer knowledge on the old problem. 

Chronology, though regarding as more or less fictitious'the 
immense dynastic schemes of the Egyptians, Hindus, and Chinese,) 
passing as they do into mere ciphering-book sums with years for 
units, nevertheless admits that existing monuments carry back 


the traces of comparatively high civilization to a distance 
of above five thousand years. By piecing together Eastern 
and Western documentary evidence, it seems that the great 
religious divisions of the Aryan race, to which modern Brah- 
manism, Zarathustrism, and Buddhism are due, belong to a 
period of remotely ancient history. Even if we are not quite 
sure, with Professor Max Miiller, in the preface to his translation 
of the " Rig Yeda," that this collection of Aryan hymns " will 
take and maintain for ever its position as the most ancient of 
books in the library of mankind," and if we do not fully admit 
the stringency of his reckonings of its date in centuries B. C, 
yet we must grant that he shows cause to refer its composition 
to a very ancient period, where it then proves that a com- 
paratively high barbaric culture already existed. The linguistic 
argument for the remotely ancient common origin of the Indo- 
European nations, in a degree as to their bodily descent, and in 
a greater degree as to their civilization, tends toward the same 
result. So it is again with Egypt. Baron Bunsen's calculations 
of Egyptian dynasties in thousands of years are indeed both 
disputable and disputed, but they are based on facts which at 
any rate authorize the reception of a long chronology. To go 
no further than the identification of two or three Egyptian 
names mentioned in Biblical and Classical history, we gain a 
strong impression of remote antiquity. Such are the names of 
Shishank ; of the Psammitichos line, whose obelisks are to be 
seen in Rome ; of Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia, whose nurse's 
coffin is in the Florence Museum ; of the city of Barneses, 
plainly connected with that great Ramesside line which Egypt- 
ologists call the 19th Dynasty. Here, before classic culture 
had arisen, the culture of Egypt culminated, and behind this 
time lies the somewhat less advanced age of the Pyramid kings, 
and behind this again the indefinite lapse of ages which such a 
civilization required for its production. Again, though no part 
of the Old Testament can satisfactorily prove for itself an 
antiquity of composition approaching that of the earliest 
Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, yet all critics must admit 
that the older of the historical books give on the one hand con- 
temporary documents showing considerable culture in the 

VOL. I. E 


Semitic world at a date which in comparison with classic 
history is ancient, while on the other hand they afford evidence 
by way of chronicle, carrying back ages farther the record of a 
somewhat advanced barbaric civilization. Now if the develop- 
ment-theory is to account for phenomena such as these, its 
chronological demand must be no small one, and the more so 
when it is admitted that in the lower ranges of culture progress 
would be extremely slow in comparison with that which 
experience shows among nations already far advanced. On these 
conditions of the first appearance of the middle civilization being 
thrown back to distant antiquity, and of slow development 
being required to perform its heavy task in ages still more 
remote, Prehistoric Archaeology cheerfully takes up the problem. 
And, indeed, far from being dismayed by the vastness of the 
period required on the narrowest computation, the prehistoric 
archaeologist shows even too much disposition to revel in calcu- 
lations of thousands of years, as a financier does in reckonings 
of thousands of pounds, in a liberal and maybe somewhat reck- 
less way. 

Prehistoric Archaeology is fully alive to facts which may bear 
on degeneration in culture. Such are the colossal human 
figures of hewn stone in Easter Island, which may possibly 
have been shaped by the ancestors of the existing islanders, 
whose present resources, however, are quite unequal to the 
execution of such gigantic works.^ A much more important 
case is that of the former inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley. 
In districts where the native tribes known in modern times do 
not rank high even as savages, there formerly dwelt a race whom 
ethnologists call the Mound-Builders, from the amazing extend 
of their mounds and enclosures, of which there is a single group 
occupying an area of four square miles. To have constructed 
such works the Mound-Builders must have been a numerous 
population, mainly subsisting by agriculture, and indeed vestiges 
of their ancient tillage are still to be found. The civilization 
of these people has been, however, sometimes overrated. Their 
earthworks did not require, as has been thought, standards of 

^ J. H. Lamprey, in Trans, of Prehistoric Congress, Norwich, 1868, p. 60 ; J. 
Linton Palmer, in Joum. Eth. Soc, vol. i., 1869. 


measurement and means of determining angles, for a cord and 
a bundle of stakes would be a sufficient set of instruments to 
lay out any of them. Their use of native copper, hammered 
into shape for cutting instruments, is similar to that of some of 
the savage tribes farther north. On the whole, judging by 
their earthworks, fields, pottery, stone implements, and other 
remains, they seem to have belonged to those high savage or 
barbaric tribes of the Southern States, of whom the Creeks and 
Cherokees, as described by Bartram, may be taken as typical.^ 
If any of the wild roving hunting tribes now found living near 
the huge earthworks of the Mound-Builders are the descendants 
of this somewhat advanced race, then a very considerable de- 
gradation has taken place. The question is an open one. The 
explanation of the traces of tillage may perhaps in this case be 
like that of remains of old cultivation-terraces in Borneo, the 
work of Chinese colonists whose descendants have mostly been 
merged in the mass of the population and follow the native 
habits.- On the other hand, the evidence of locality may be 
misleading as to race. A traveller in Greenland, coming on the 
ruined stone buildings at Kakortok, would not argue justly that 
the Esquimaux are degenerate descendants of ancestors capable 
of such architecture, for in fact these are the remains of a 
church and baptistery built by the ancient Scandinavian settlers.'^ 
On the whole it is remarkable how little of colourable evidence 
of degeneration has been disclosed by archaeology. Its negative 
evidence tells strongly the otlier way. As an instance may be 
quoted Sir John Lubbock's argument against the idea that 
tribes now ignorant of metallurgy and pottery formerly pos- 
sessed but have since lost these arts. " We may also assert, on 
a general proposition, that no weapons or instruments of metal 
have ever been found in any 'country inhabited by savages 
wholly ignorant of metallurgy. A still stronger case is afforded 
by pottery. Pottery is not easily destroyed ; when known at 

^ Squierand Davis, *Mon. of Mississippi Valley,' etc., in Smithsonian Contr., 
vol. i. 1848. See Lubbock, * Prehistoric Times,' chap. vii. ; "Waitz, 'Anthro- 
pologic,' vol. iii. p. 72. Bartram, * Creek and Cherokee Ind.,' in Tr. Amer, 
Ethnol. Soc, vol. iii. part i. 

* St. John, ' Life in Forests of Far East,' vol. ii. p. 327. 

3 Rafn, 'Americas Arctiske Landes Gamle Geograpliie, ' pi. vii., viii. 

E 2 


all it is always abundant, and it possesses two qualities, namely, 
those of being easy to break, and yet difficult to destroy, which 
render it very valuable in an archaeological point of view. 
Moreover, it is in most cases associated with burials. It is, 
therefore, a very significant fact, that no fragment of potterj^ 
has ever been found in Australia, New Zealand, or the Poly- 
nesian Islands." ^ How different a state of things the popular 
degeneration-theory would lead us to expect is pointedly sug- 
gested by Sir Charles Lyell's sarcastic sentences in his 'Anti- 
quity of Man.' Had the original stock of mankind, he argues, 
been really endowed Avith superior intellectual powers and 
inspired knowledge, while possessing the same improvable 
nature as their posterity, how extreme a point of advancement 
would they have reached. "Instead of the rudest pottery or 
flint tools, so irregular in form as to cause the unpractised eye 
to doubt whether they afford unmistakable evidence of design, 
we should now be finding sculptured forms surpassing in beauty 
the piaster-pieces of Phidias or Praxiteles ; lines of buried rail- 
ways or electric telegraphs, from which the best engineers of 
our day might gain invaluable hints ; astronomical instruments 
and microscopes of more advanced construction than any known 
in Europe, and other indications of perfection in the arts and 
sciences, such as the nineteenth century has not yet witnessed. 
Still farther would the triumphs of inventive genius be found 
to have been carried, when the later deposits, now assigned to 
the ages of bronze and iron, were formed. Vainly should we be 
straining our imaginations to guess the possible uses and mean- 
ing of such relics — machines, perhaps, for navigating the air or 
exploring the depths of the ocean, or for calculating arithmetical 
problems beyond the wants or even the conception of living 
mathematicians." " 

The master-key to the investigation of man's primaeval con- 
dition is held by Prehistoric Archaeology. This key is the 
evidence of the Stone Age, proving that men of remotely 
ancient ages were in the savage state. Ever since the long- - 
delayed recognition of M. Boucher de Perthes' discoveries (1841 

* Lubbock, in 'Keport of British Association, Dundee, 18G7,' i>. 121. 
" Lyel], 'Antiquity of Man,' chap. xix. 


and onward) of the flint implements in the Drift gravels of tlie 
Somme Valley, evidence has been accumulating over a wide 
European area to show that the ruder Stone Age, represented 
by implements of the Palaeolithic or Drift type, prevailed 
among savage tribes of the Quaternary period, the contempo- 
raries of the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, in ages for 
which Geology asserts an antiquity far more remote than 
History can avail to substantiate for the human race. Mr. 
John Frere had already written in 1797 respecting such flint 
instruments discovered at Hoxne in Suffolk. " The situation in 
which these weapons were found may tempt us to refer them 
to a very remote period indeed, even beyond that of the present 
world." ^ The vast lapse of time through which the history of 
London has represented the history of human civilization, is 
to my mind one of the most suggestive facts disclosed by 
archaeology. The antiquary, excavating but a few yards deep, 
may descend from the debris representing our modern life, to 
relics of the art and science of the Middle Ages, to signs of 
Norman, Saxon, Romano-British times, to traces of the higher 
Stone Age. And on his way from Temple Bar to the Great 
Northern Station he passes near the spot ('" opposite to black 
Mary's, near Grayes inn lane ") where a drift implement of 
black flint was found with the skeleton of an elephant by Mr. 
Conyers, about a century and a half ago, the relics side by side 
of the London mammoth and the London savage.^ In the 
gravel-beds of Europe, the laterite of India, and other more 
superficial localities, [where relics of the Palaeolithic Age are 
found, what principally testifies to man's condition is the 
extreme rudeness of his stone implements, and the absence of 
even edge-grinding. The natural inference that this indicates 
a low savage state is confirmed in the caves of Central France. 
There a race of men, who have left indeed really artistic por- 
traits of themselves and the reindeer and mammoths they lived 
among, seem, as may be judged from the remains of their 
weapons, implements, etc., to have led a life somewhat of 

^ Frere, in ' Arclifeologia,' 1800. 

2 J. Evcans, in ' Archoeologia,' 1861; Lubbock, 'Prehistoric Times,' 2nd cd., 
p. 335. 


Esquimaux type, but lower by the want of domesticated 
animals. The districts Avhere implements of the rude primitive 
Drift type are found are limited in extent. It is to ages later 
in time and more advanced in development, that the Neolithic 
or Polished Stone Period belonged, when the manufacture of 
stone instruments was much improved, and grinding and 
polishing were generally introduced. During the long period 
of prevalence of this state of things, Man appears to have spread 
almost over the whole habitable earth. The examination of 
district after district of the world has now all but established a 
universal rule that the Stone Age (bone or shell being the 
occasional substitutes for stone) underlies the Metal Age every- 
where. Even the districts famed in history as seats of ancient 
civilization show, like other regions, their traces of a yet more 
archaic Stone Age. Asia Minor, Egypt, Palestine, India, China, 
furnish evidence from actual specimens, historical mentions, 
and survivals, which demonstrate the former prevalence of con- 
ditions of society which have their analogues among modern 
savage tribes.^ The Duke of Argyll, in his 'Primeval Man,' 
while admitting the Drift implements as having been the ice 
hatchets and rude knives of low tribes of men inhabiting 
Europe toward the end of the Glacial Period, concludes thence 
" that it would be about as safe to argue from these implements 
as to the condition of Man at that time in the countries of his 
Primeval Home, as it would be in our own day to argue from 
the habits and arts of the Eskimo as to the state of civilization 
in London or in Paris." ^ The progress of archa3ology for years 
past, however, has been continually cutting away the ground on 
which such an argument as this can stand, till now it is all but 
utterly driven off the field. Where now is the district of the 
earth that can be pointed to as the " Primeval Home " of Man, 
and that does not show by rude stone implements buried in its 
soil the savage condition of its former inhabitants ? There is 
scarcely a known province of the world of which we cannot say 
certainly, savages once dwelt here, and if in such a case an 
ethnologist asserts that these savages were the descendants o^ 

^ See * Early History of JMankind,' cliap. viii. 
2 Argyll, ' Primeval Man, ' i\ 129. 

THE devp:lopment of cultuee. 55 

successors of a civilized nation, the burden of proof lies on him. 
Again, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age belong in great mea- 
sure to history, but their relation to the Stone Age proves the 
soundness of the judgment of Lucretius, when, attaching expe- 
rience of the present to memory and inference from the past, 
he propounded what is now a tenet of archaeology, the succession 
of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages : 

," Arma antiqua manus ungues dentesque faerunt, 
Et lapides, et item silvarum fragmina rami 

Posterius ferri vis est serisque reperta, 

Et prior 2eris erat quam ferri cognitus usus." ^ 

Throughout the various topics of Prehistoric Archseology, the 
force and convergence of its testimony upon the development of 
culture are overpowering. The relics discovered in gravel-beds, 
caves, shell-mounds, terramares, lake-dwellings, earthworks, the 
results of an exploration of the superficial soil in many countries, 
the comparison of geological evidence, of historical documents, 
of modern savage life, corroborate and explain one another. 
The megalithic structures, menhirs, cromlechs, dolmens, and the 
like, only known to England, France, Algeria, as the Avork of 
I'aces of the mysterious past, have been kept up as matters of 
modern construction and recognized purpose among the ruder 
indigenous tribes of India. The series of ancient lake-settle- 
ments which must represent so many centuries of successive 
population fringing the shores of the Swiss lakes, have their 
surviving representatives among rude tribes of tbe East Indies, 
Africa, and South America. Outlying savages are still heaping 
up shell-mounds like those of far-past Scandinavian antiquity. 
The burial-mounds still to be seen in civilized countries have 
served at once as museums of early culture and as proofs of its 
savage or barbaric type. It is enough, without entering farther 
here into subjects fully discussed in modern special works, to 
claim the general support given to the development-theory of 
culture by Prehistoric Archseology. It was with a true appre- 
ciation of the bearings of this science that one of its founders, 

^ Lucret. De Eerum Natura, v. 1281. 


the venerable Professor Sven Nilsson, declared in 1843 in the 
Introduction to his ' Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia/ that 
we are " unable properly to understand the significance of the 
antiquities of any individual country without at the same time 
clearly realizing the idea that they are the fragments of a pro- 
gressive series of civilization, and that the human race has 
always been, and still is, steadily advancing in civilization." ^ 

Enquiry into the origin and early development of the 
material ^ arts, as judged of by comparing the various stages 
at which they are found existing, leads to a corresponding 
result. Not to take this argument up in its full range, a few 
typical details may serve to show its general character. 
Amongst the various stages of the arts, it is only a minority 
which show of themselves by mere inspection whether they 
are in the line of progress or of decline. Most such facts may be 
compared to an Indian's canoe, stem and stern alike, so that 
one cannot tell by looking at it which way it is set to go. But 
there are some which, like our own boats, distinctly point in the 
direction of their actual course. Such facts are pointers in the 
study of civilization, and in every branch of the enquiry should 
be sought out. A good example of these pointer-facts is re- 
corded by Mr. Wallace. In Celebes, where the bamboo houses 
are sept to lean with the prevalent west wind, the natives have 
found out that if they fix some crooked timbers in the sides of 
the house, it will not fall. They choose such accordingly, the 
crookedest they can find, but they do not know the rationale of 
the contrivance, and have not hit on the idea that straight poles 
fixed slanting would have the same effect in making the struc- 
ture rigid.^ In fact, they have gone halfway toward inventing 
what builders call a " strut," but have stopped short. Now the 
mere sight of such a house would show that the plan is not a 
remnant of higher architecture, but a half-made invention. 

' See Lyell, 'Antiquity of Man,' 3rd ed. 1863 ; Lubbock, * Prehistoric Times,' 
2nd ed. 1870 ; 'Trans, of Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology' (Norwich, 1868) ; 
Stevens, 'Flint Chips, etc.,' 1870; Nilsson, 'Primitive Inhabitants of Scan- 
dinavia ' (ed. by Lubbock, 1868) ; Falconer, * Palseontological Memoirs, etc' ; ) 
Lartet and Christy, 'Reliquife Aquitanicse' (ed. by T. R. Jones) ; Keller, 'Lake 
Dwellings' (Tr. and Ed. by J. E. Lee), etc., etc. 

- "Wallace, ' Indian Archipelago,' vol. i. p. 357. 


This is a fact in the line of progress, but not of decline. I 
have mentioned elsewhere a number of similar cases ; thus the 
adaptation of a cord to the fire-drill is obviously ar improve- 
ment on the simpler instrument twirled by hand, and the use 
of the spindle for making thread is an improvement on the 
clumsier art of hand-twisting ;^ but to reverse this position, and 
suppose the hand-drill to have come into use by leaving off the 
use of the cord of the cord-drill, or that people who knew the 
use of the spindle left it off and painfully twisted their thread 
by hand, is absurd. Again, the appearance of an art in a 
particular locality where it is hard to account for it as borrowed 
from elsewhere, and especially if it concerns some special native 
product, is evidence of its being a native invention. Thus, 
what people can claim the invention of the hammock, or the 
still more admirable discovery of the extraction of the v^^hole- 
some cassava from the poisonous manioc, but the natives of the 
South American and West Indian districts to which these 
things belong? As the isolated possession of an art goes to 
prove its invention where it is found, so the absence of ^an art 
goes to prove that it was never present. The onus proband! is 
on the other side ; if any one thinks that the East Africans' an- 
cestors had the lamp and the potter's wheel, and that the North 
American Indians once possessed the art of making beer from 
their maize like the Mexicans, but that these arts have been lost, 
at any rate let him show cause for such an opinion. I need not, 
perhaps, go so far as a facetious ethnological friend of mine, who 
argues that the existence of savage tribes who do not kiss their 
women is a proof of primaeval barbarism, for, he says, if they 
had ever known the practice they could not possibly have for- 
gotten it. Lastly and principally, as experience shows us that 
arts of civilized life are developed through successive stages of 
improvement, we may assume that the early development of 
even savage arts came to pass in a similar way, and thus, find- 
ing various stages of an art among the lower races, we may 
arrange these stages in a series probably representing their 
actual sequence in history. If any art can be traced back 
among savage tribes to a rudimentary state in which its inven- 

* 'Early History of Maukiud,' pp. 192, 243, etc., etc. 


tion does not seem beyond their intellectual condition, and 
especially if it may be produced by imitating nature or follow- 
ing nature's direct suggestion, there is fair reason to suppose 
the very origin of the art to have been reached. 

Professor Nilsson, looking at the remarkable similarity of the 
hunting and fishing instruments of the lower races of mankind, 
considers them to have been contrived instinctively by a sort of 
natural necessity. As an example he takes the bow and arrow.^ 
The instance seems an unfortunate one, in the face of the fact 
that the supposed bow-and-arrow-making instinct fails among 
the natives of Australia, to whom it would have been very use- 
ful, while even among the Papuan natives of the New Hebrides 
tliere is reason to think it not original, for the bow is called 
there fana, 'pena, nfanga, &c., names apparently taken from 
the Malay ^9c/JzaA, and indicating a Malay origin for the instru- 
ment. It seems to me that Dr. Klemm, in his dissertation on Im- 
plements and Weapons, and Colonel Lane Fox, in his lectures on 
Primitive Warfare, take a more instructive line in tracing the 
early development of arts, not to a blind instinct, but to a selec- 
tion, imitation, and gradual adaptation and improvement of 
objects and operations which Nature, the instructor of primaeval 
man, sets before him. Thus Klemm traces the stages by which 
progress appears to have been made from the rough stick to the 
finished spear or club, from the natural sharp-edged or rounded 
stone to the artistically fashioned celt, spear-head, or hammer.^ 
Fox traces connexion through the various types of weapons, 
pointing out how a form once arrived at is repeated in various 
sizes, like the spear-head and arrow-point; how in rude con- 
ditions of the arts the same instrument serves different pur- 
poses, as where the Fuegians used their arrow-heads also for 
knives, and Kafirs carve with their assagais, till separate forms 
are adopted for special purposes ; and how in the history of the 
striking, cutting, and piercing instruments used by mankind, a 
continuity may be traced, w^hich indicates a gradual progressive 
development from the rudest beginnings to the most advanced 
improvements of modern skill. To show how far the early 

^ Nilsson, 'Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia,' p. 104. 

- Klemm, *Allg. Culturwissenschaft,' part ii., Werkzeuge mid Waffeu. 


development of warlike arts may have been due to man's 
imitative faculty, he points out the analogies in methods of 
warfare among animals and ' men, classifying as defensive 
appliances hides, solid plates, jointed plates, scales ; as offensive 
weapons, the piercing, striking, serrated, poisoned kinds, &c. ; 
and under the head of stratagems, flight, concealment, leaders, 
outposts, war-cries, and so forth.^ 

The manufacture of stone implements is now almost perfectly 
understood by archaeologists. The processes used by modern 
savages have been observed and imitated. Mr. John Evans, for 
instance, by blows with a pebble, pressure with a piece of stag's 
horn, sawing with a flint-flake, boring with a stick and sand, and 
grinding on a stone surface, succeeds in reproducing all but the 
finest kinds of stone implements.^ On thorough knowledge we 
are now able to refer in great measure the remarkable similarities 
of the stone scrapers, flake-knives, hatchets, spear- and arrow- 
heads, &c., as found in distant times and regions, to the similarity 
of natural models, of materials, and of requirements which 
belong to savage life. The history of the Stone Age is clearly 
seen to be one of development. Beginning with the natural 
sharp stone, the transition to the rudest artificially shaped stone 
implement is imperceptibly gradual, and onward from this rude 
stage much independent progress in different directions is to be 
traced, and the manufacture at last arrives at admirable artistic 
perfection, by the time that the introduction of metal is super- 
seding it. So with other implements and fabrics, of which the 
stages are known through their whole course of development 
from the merest nature to the fullest art. The club is traced 
from the rudest natural bludgeon up to the weapon of finished 
shape and carving. Pebbles held in the hand to hammer with, 
and cutting-instruments of stone shaped or left smooth at one 
end to be held in the hand, may be seen in museums, hinting 
that the important art of fixing instruments in handles was the 
result of invention, not of instinct. The stone hatchet, used as 

^ Lane Fox, 'Lectures on Primitive Warfare,' Journ. United Service lust., 
1SG7— 9. 

- Evans in 'Trans, of Congress of Prehistoric Archa'ology ' (Norwich, 1868), 
p. 191 ; Ran in 'Smithsonian Reports,' 1868 ; Sir E. l:elcher in Tr. Eth. Soc. 
vol. i. p. 129. 


a weapon, passes into the battle-axe. The spear, a pointed stick 
or pole, has its point hardened in the fire, and a further im- 
provement is to fix on a sharp point of horn, bone, or chipped 
stone. Stones are flung by hand, and then by the shng, a con- 
trivance widely but not universally known among savage tribes. 
From first to last in the history of war the spear or lance is 
grasped as a thrusting weapon. Its use as a missile no doubt 
began as early, but it has hardly survived so far in civilization. 
Thus used, it is most often thrown by the unaided arm, but a 
sling for the purpose is known to various savage tribes. The 
short cord with an eye used in the New Hebrides, and called a 
" becket " by Captain Cook, and a whip-like instrument noticed 
in New Zealand, are used for spear-throwing. But the more 
usual instrument is a wooden handle, a foot or two lonof. This 
spear-thrower is known across the high northern districts of 
North America, among some tribes of South America, and 
among the Australians. These latter, it has been asserted, could 
not have invented it in their present state of barbarism. But 
the remarkable feature of the matter is that the spear-thrower 
belongs especially to savagery, and not to civilization. Among 
the higher nations the nearest approach to it seems to have 
been the classic amentum, apparently a thong attached to the 
middle of the javelin to throw it with. The highest people 
known to have used the spear-thrower proper are the Aztecs. 
Its existence among them is vouched for by representations in 
the Mexican mythological pictures, by its name "atlatl," and by 
a beautifully artistic specimen of the thing itself in the Christy 
Museum ; but we do not hear of it as in practical use at the 
Conquest, w^hen it had apparently fallen into survival. In fact 
the history of the instrument seems in absolute opposition to the 
degradation-theory, representing as it does an invention belong- 
ing to savage culture, and scarcely able to survive beyond. 
Nearly the same may be said of the blow-tube, which as a 
serious weapon sca^rcely ranges above rude tribes of the East 
Indies and South America, though kept up in sport at higher 
levels. The Australian boomerang has been claimed as derived 
from some hypothetical high culture, wdiereas the transition- 
stages through which it is connected with the club are to be 


observed in its own country, while no civilized race possesses 
the weapon. 

The use of an elastic switch to fillip small missiles with, and 
the remarkable elastic darts of the Pelew Islands, bent and 
made to fly by their own spring, indicate inventions which may 
have led to that of the bow, while the arrow is a miniature form 
of the javelin. The practice of poisoning arrows, after the 
manner of stings and serpents' fangs, is no civilized device, but 
a characteristic of lower life, which is generally discarded even 
at the barbaric stage. The art of narcotizing fish, remembered 
but not approved by high civilization, belongs to many savage 
tribes, who might easily discover it in any forest pool where a 
suitable plant had fallen in. The art of setting fences to catch 
fish at the ebb of the tide, so common among the lower races, 
is a simple device for assisting nature quite likely to occur to 
the savage, in whom sharp hunger is no mean ally of dull wit. 
Thus it is with other arts. Fire-making, cooking, pottery, the 
textile arts, are to be traced along lines of gradual improve- 
ment.^ Music begins with the rattle and the drum, which in 
one way or another hold their places from end to end of civili- 
zation, while pipes and stringed instruments represent an ad- 
vanced musical art which is still developing. So with architec- 
ture and agriculture. Complex, elaborate, and highly-reasoned 
as are the upper stages of these arts, it is to be remembered 
that their lower stages begin with mere direct imitation of 
nature, copying the shelters which nature provides, and the 
propagation of plants which nature performs. Without enu- 
merating to the same purpose the remaining industries of 
savage life, it may be said generally that their facts resist 
rather than require a theory of degradation from higher 
culture. They agree with, and often necessitate, the same view 
of development which we know by experience to account for 
the origin and progi'ess of the arts among ourselves. 

In the various branches of the problem which will hencefor- 
ward occupy our attention, that of determining the relation of 
the mental condition of savages to that of civilized men, it is 
an excellent guide and safeguard to keep before our minds the 

* See details in 'Early History of ]\Iankind,' chap. vii. — ix. 


theory of development in the material arts. Throughout all the 
manifestations of the human intellect, facts will be found to fall 
into their places on the same general lines of evolution. The 
notion of the intellectual state of savages as resulting from 
decay of previous high knowledge, seems to have as little evi- 
dence in its favour as that stone celts are the degenerate suc- 
cessors of Sheffield axes, or earthen grave-mounds degraded 
copies of Egyptian pyramids. The study of savage and civilized 
life alike avail us to trace in the early history of the human 
intellect, not gifts of transcendental wisdom, but rude shrewd 
sense taking up the facts of common life and shaping from 
them schemes of primitive philosophy. It will be seen again 
and again, by examining such topics as language, mythology, 
custom, religion, that savage opinion is in a more or less rudi- 
mentary state, while the civilized mind still bears vestiges, 
neither few nor slight, of a past condition from which savages 
represent the least, and civilized men the greatest advance. 
Throughout the whole vast range of the history of human 
thought and habit, while civilization has to contend not only 
with survival from lower levels, but also with degeneration 
within its own borders, it yet proves capable of overcoming 
both and taking its own course. History within its proper 
field, and ethnography over a wider range, combine to show that 
the institutions which can best hold their own in the world 
oradually supersede the less fit ones, and that this incessant 
conflict determines the general resultant course of culture. I 
will venture to set forth in mythic fashion how progress, aberra- 
tion, and retrogression in the general course of culture contrast 
themselves in my own mind. We may fancy ourselves looking 
on Civilization, as in personal figure she traverses the world ; 
we see her lingering or resting by the way, and often deviating 
into paths that bring her toiling back to where she had passed 
by long ago ; but, direct or devious, her path lies forward, and 
if now and then she tries a few backward steps, her walk soon 
falls into a helpless stumbling. It is not according to her 
nature, her feet were not made to plant uncertain steps behind 
her, for both in her forward view and in her onward gait she is 
of truly human type. 



Survival and Superstition — Cliildren's games — Games of chance — Traditional 
sayings — Nursery poems — Proverbs — Riddles — Significance and survival in 
Customs : sneezing-formula, rite of foundation-sacrifice, prejudice against 
saving a drowning man. 

When a custom, an art, or an opinion is fairly started in the 
world, disturbing influences may long affect it so slightly that 
it may keep its course from generation to generation, as a 
stream once settled in its bed will flow on for ages. This is 
mere permanence of culture ; and the special wonder about 
it is that the change and revolution of human affairs should 
have left so many of its feeblest rivulets to run so long. On 
the Tatar steppes, six hundred years ago, it was an offence to 
tread on the threshold or touch the ropes in entering a tent, 
and so it appears to be still.^ Eighteen centuries ago Ovid 
mentions the vulgar Roman objection to marriages in Maj^, 
which he not unreasonably explains by the occurrence in that 
month of the funeral rites of the Lemuralia : — 

" Nee viduse tsedis eadem, nee virginis apta 
Tempora. Quae nupsit, non diuturna fuit. 
Hae quoque de causa, si te proverbia tangunt, 
Mense malas Maio nubere volgus ait."- 

The saying that marriages in May are unlucky survives to this 
day in England, a striking example how an idea, the meaning 

^ Will, de Rubruquis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. pp. 46, 67, 132 ; Michie, 'Siberian 
Overland Route,' p. 96. 
* Ovid, 'Fast.' v. 487. 


of which has perished for ages, may continue to exist simply 
because it has existed. 

Now there are thousands of cases of this kind which have 
become, so to speak, landmarks in the course of culture. When 
in the process of time there has come general change in the 
condition of a people, it is usual, notwithstanding, to find much 
that manifestly had not its origin in the new state of things, 
but has simply lasted on into it. On the strength of these 
survivals, it becomes possible to declare that the civilization 
of the people they are observed among must have been 
derived from an earlier state, in w^hich the proper home and 
meaning of these things are to be found ; and thus collections 
of such facts are to be worked as mines of historic knowledore. 
In dealing with such materials, experience of what actually 
happens is the main guide, and direct history has to teach us, 
first and foremost, how old habits hold their ground in the midst 
of a new culture which certainly would never have brought 
them in, but on the contrary presses hard to thrust them out. 
What this direct information is like, a single example may 
shoAV. The Dayaks of Borneo were not accustomed to chop 
wood, as we do, by notching out V-shaped cuts. Accordingly, 
when the white man intruded amons^ them with this amone 
other novelties, they marked their disgust at the innovation by 
levying a fine on any of their own people who should be caught 
chopping in the European fashion ; yet so well aware were the 
native woodcutters that the white man's plan was an improve- 
ment on their own, that they would use it surreptitiously when 
they could trust one another not to tell.^ The account is 
twenty years old, and very likely the foreign chop may have 
ceased to be an offence against Dayak conservatism, but its 
prohibition was a striking instance of survival by ancestral 
authority in the very teeth of common sense. Such a pro- 
ceeding as this would be usually, and not improperly, described 
as a superstition; and, indeed, this name would be given to a 
large proportion of survivals generally. The very word " su- 
perstition," in what is perhaps its original sense of a " standing 
over " from old times, itself expresses the notion of survival. 

* *Jonrr. Ind. Archip.' (ed. by J. E. Logan), vol. ii. p. liv. 


But tlie term superstition now implies a reproach, and though 
this reproach may be often cast deservedly on fragments of a 
dead lower culture embedded in a living higher one, yet in 
many cases it would be harsh, and even untrue. For the 
ethnographer's purpose, at any rate, it is desirable to intro- 
duce such a term as " survival," simply to denote the his- 
torical fact which the word " superstition " is now spoiled for 
expressing. Moreover, there have to be included as partial 
survivals the mass of cases where enough of the old habit is 
kept up for its origin to be recognizable, though in taking a 
new form it has been so adapted to new circumstances as still 
to hold its place on its own merits. 

Thus it would be seldom reasonable to call the children's 
games of modern Europe superstitions, though many of them 
are survivals, and indeed remarkable ones. If the games of 
children and of grown-up people be examined with an eye to 
ethnological lessons to be gained from them, one of the first 
things that strikes us is how many of them are only sportive 
imitations of the serious business of life. As children in modern 
civilized times play at dining and driving horses and going to 
church, so a main amusement of savage children is to imitate 
the occupations which they Avill carry on in earnest a few years 
later, and thus their games are in fact their lessons. The Es- 
quimaux children's sports are shooting with a tiny bow and 
arrow at a mark, and building little snow-huts, which they 
light up with scraps of lamp-wick begged from their mothers.^ 
Miniature boomerangs and spears are among the toys of Aus- 
tralian children ; and even as the fathers keep up the extremely 
primitive custom of getting themselves wives by carrying them 
off by violence from other tribes, so playing at such "bride -lift- 
ing " has been noticed as one* of the regular games of the little 
native boys and girls.^ Now it is quite a usual thing in the world 
for a game to outlive the serious practice of which it is an imi- 
tation. The bow and arrow is a conspicuous instance. Ancient 
and wide-spread in savage culture, we trace this instrument 

^ Klemm, * Cultur-Geschichte,' vol. ii. p. 209. 

2 Oldfield in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 266; Dumont d'Urville, *Voy. de 
r Astrolabe,* vol. i. p. 411. 

VOL. I. F 


through barbaric and classic life and onward to a high mediaeval 
level. But now, when we look on at an archery meeting, or go 
by country lanes at the season when toy bows and arrows are 
" in " among the children, we see, reduced to a mere sportive 
survival, the ancient weapon which among a few savage tribes 
still keeps its deadly place in the hunt and the battle. The 
€ross-bow, a comparatively late and local improvement on the 
long-bow, has disappeared yet more utterly from practical use ; 
but as a toy it is in full European service, and likely to remain 
so. For antiquity and wide diffusion in the world, through 
savage up to classic and mediaeval times, the sling ranks with 
the bow and arrow. But in the middle ages it fell out of use 
as a practical weapon, and it was all in vain that the 15th 
century poet commended the art of slinging among the exercises 
of a good soldier : — 

" Use eek the cast of stone, with slynge or honde : 
It falleth ofte, yf other shot there none is, 

Men harneysed in steel may not withstonde, 
The multitude and mighty east of stonys ; 

And stonys in effecte, are every where, 

And slynges are not noyous for to beare." ^ 

Perhaps as serious a use of the sHng as can now be pointed 
out within the limits of civilization is among the herdsmen of 
Spanish America, who sling so cleverly that the saying is they 
can hit a beast on either horn and turn him which way they 
will. But the use of the rude old weapon is especially kept 
up by boys at play, who are here again the representatives of 
remotely ancient culture. 

As games thus keep up the record of primitive warlike arts, 
so they reproduce, in what are at once sports and little children's 
lessons, early stages in the history of childlike tribes of man- 
kind. English children delighting in the imitations of cries 
of animals and so forth, and New Zealanders playing their 
favourite game of imitating in chorus the saw hissing, the 
adze chipping, the musket roaring, and the other instruments, 
making their proper noises, are alike showing at its source the 

^ Strutt, * Sports and Pastimes,' book ii. chap. ii. 


imitative element so important in the formation of language.^ 
When we look into the early development of the art of count- 
ing, and see the evidence of tribe after tribe having obtained 
numerals through the primitive stage of counting on their 
fingers, we find a certain ethnographic interest in the games 
which teach this earliest numeration. The New Zealand game 
of " ti " is described as played by counting on the fingers, a 
number being called by one player, and he having instantly to 
touch the proper finger ; while in the Samoan game one player 
holds out so many fingers, and his opponent must do the same 
instantly or lose a point.^ These may be native Polynesian 
games, or they may be our own children's games borrowed. In 
the English nursery the child learns to say how many fingers 
the nurse shows, and the appointed formula of the game is 
. " Buck, Buck, how many horns do I hold up ? " The game of 
one holding up fingers and the others holding up fingers to 
match is mentioned in Strutt. We may see small schoolboys 
in the lanes playing the guessing-game, where one gets on 
another's back and holds up fingers, the other must guess how 
many. It is interesting to notice the wide distribution and 
long permanence of these trifles in history when we read 
the following passage from Petronius Arbiter, written in the 
time of Nero : — " Trimalchio, not to seem moved by the loss, 
kissed the boy and bade him get up on his back. Without 
delay the boy climbed on horseback on him, and slapped him 
on the shoulders with his hand, laughing and calling out "bucca, 
bucca, quot sunt hic?"^ The simple counting-games played with 
the fingers must not bo confounded with the addition-game, 
where each player throws out a hand, and the sum of all the 
fingers shown has to be called, the successful caller scoring a 
point ; practically each calls the total before he sees his adver- 
sary's hand, so that the skill lies especially in shrewd guessing. 
This game affords endless amusement to China, where it is 

^ Polack, * NeAV Zealanders,' voL ii. p. 171. 

- Polack, ibid. ; Wilkes, ' U. S. Exp.' vol. i. p. 194. See tlie account of the game 
of liagi in Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 339 ; and Yate, 'New Zealand,' p. 113, 

^ Petron. Arbitri Satirse rec. Biicliler, p. 64 (other readings are hicccce or 

F 2 


called "tsoey-moey," and to Southern Europe, where it is known 
in Italian as ''morra/' and in French as "mourre." So peculiar 
a game would hardly have been invented twice over in Europe 
and Asia, but it is hard to guess whether the Chinese learnt 
it from the "West, or whether it belongs to the remarkable 
list of clever inventions which Europe has borrowed from China. 
The ancient Egyptians, as their sculptures show, tised to play 
at some kind of finger-game, and the Eomans had their finger- 
flashing, '' micare digitis," at which butchers used to gamble 
with their customers for bits of meat. It is not clear whether 
these were inorra or some other games.^ 

When Scotch lads, playing at the game of " tappie-tousie," 
take one another by the forelock and say, "Will ye be my 
man? "2 they know nothing of the old symbolic manner of 
receiving a bondman which they are keeping up in survival. 
The wooden drill for making fire by friction, which so many 
rude or ancient races are known to have used as their com- 
mon household instrument, and which lasts on among the 
modern Hindoos as the time-honoured sacred means of light- 
ing the pure sacrificial flame, has been found surviving in 
Switzerland as a toy among the children, who made fire with 
it in sport, much as Esquimaux would have done in earnest.^ 
In Gothland it is on record that the ancient sacrifice of the 
wild boar has actually been carried on into modern times in 
sportive imitation, by lads in masquerading clothes with their 
faces blackened and painted, while the victim was personated 
by a boy rolled up in furs and placed upon a seat, with a tuft 
of pointed straws in his mouth to imitate the bristles of the 
boar.^ One innocent little child's sport of our own time is 
strangely mixed up with an ugly story of above a thousand 
years ago. The game in question is thus played in France : — 
The children stand in a ring, one lights a spill of paper and 
passes it on to the next, saying, " petit bonhomme vit encore," 
and so on round the ring, each saying the words and passing on 

^ Compare Davis, * Chinese,' voL i. p. 31 7 ; Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 
voL i. p. 188 ; Facciolati, Lexicon, s. v. 'micare'; etc. 

2 Jamieson, 'Diet, of Scottish Lang.' s. v. 

3 * Early History of Mankind,' p. 244, etc.; Grimm, 'Deutsche Myth.', p. 573. 

4 Grimm, ibid., p. 1200. 


the flame as quickly as may be, for the one in who^e hands the 
spill goes out has to pay a forfeit, and it is then proclaimed 
that " petit bonhomme est mort." Grimm mentions a similar 
game in Germany, played with a burning stick, and Halliwell 
gives the nursery rhyme which is said with it when it is played 
in England : — 

" Jack's alive and in very good health. 
If lie dies in your hand you must look to yourself" 

Now, as all readers of Church history know, it used to be a 
favourite engine of controversy for the adherents of an esta- 
blished faith to accuse heretical sects of celebratins^ hideous 
orgies as the mysteries of their religion. The Pagans told these 
stories of the Jews, the Jews told them of the Christians, and 
Christians themselves reached a bad eminence in the art of 
slandering religious opponents whose moral life often seems in 
fact to have been exceptionally pure. The Manichseans were 
an especial mark for such aspersions, which were passed on to a 
sect considered as their successors — the Paulicians, whose name 
reappears in the middle ages, in connexion with the Cathari. 
To these latter, apparently from an expression in one of their 
religious formulas, was given the name of Boni Homines, which 
became a recognized term for the Albigenses. It is clear that 
the early Paulicians excited the anger of the orthodox by object- 
ing to sacred im^ages, and calling those who venerated them idola- 
ters ; and about A.D. 700, John of Osun, Patriarch of Armenia, 
wi'ote a diatribe against the sect, urging accusations of the 
regular anti-Manichasan type, but with a peculiar feature which 
brings his statement into the present singular connexion. He 
declares that they blasphemously call the orthodox "image- 
worshippers"; that they themselves worship the sun; that, 
moreover, they mix wh eaten flour with the blood of infants 
and therewith celebrate their communion, and " when they 
have slain by the worst of deaths a boy, the first-born of his 
mother, thrown from hand to hand among them by turns, they 
venerate him in whose hand the child expires, as having at- 
tained to the first dignity of the sect." To explain the corre- 
spondence of these atrocious details with the nursery sport. 


it is perhaps the most likely supposition, not that the game of 
"Petit Bonhomme " keeps up a recollection of a legend of the 
Boni Homines, but that the game was known to the children of 
the eighth century much as it is now, and that the Armenian 
Patriarch simply accused the Paulicians of playing at it with 
live babes.^ 

It may be possible to trace another interesting group of 
sports as survivals from a branch of savage philosophy, once 
of high rank though now fallen into merited decay. GamevS 
of chance correspond so closely with arts of divination belong- 
ing already to savage culture, that there is force in applying to 
several such games the rule that the serious practice comes 
first, and in time may dwindle to the sportive survival. To a 
modern educated man, drawing lots or tossing up a coin is an 
appeal to chance, that is, to ignorance ; it is committing the 
decision of a question to a mechanical process, itself in no Avay 
unnatural or even extraordinary, but merely so difficult to 
follow that no one can say beforehand what will come of it. 
But we also know that this scientific doctrine of chance is not 
that of early civilization, which has little in common with the 
mathematician's theory of probabilities, but much in common 
with such sacred divination as the choice of Matthias by lot as 
a twelfth apostle, or, in a later age, the Moravian Brethren's 
rite of choosing wives for their young men by casting lots with 

1 Halliwell, 'Popular Rhymes,' p. 112; Grimm, 'D. M.' p, 812. Bastian, 
■*Mensch,' vol. iii. 'p, 106. Johannis Pliilosophi Ozniensis Opera (Aucher), 
Venice, 1834, p. 78 — 89. "Infantiiim sanguini similam commiscentes illegiti- 
mam communionem deglutiunt ; quo pacto porcorum suos foetus immaniter 
vescentium exsuperant edacitatem. Quiquc illorum cadavera super tecti culmen 
celantes, ac sursum oculis in ccelum defixis respicientes, jurant alieno verbo ac 
sensu : AUissiviics owvit. Solem vero deprecari volentes, ajunt : Solicule^ Lucicule; 
atque aereos, vagosque dsemones clam invocant, juxta Manichseorum Simonisque 
incantatoris errores. Similiter et primum parientis fceminfe puerum de manu. in 
manum inter eos invicem projectum, quum pessima morte occiderint, ilium, in 
cujusmanu exspiraverit puer, ad primam sectce dignitatem provectum venerantur ; 
atque per utriusque nomen audent insane jurare ; Juro, dicunt, per unigeniticvi 
filium : et iterum : Testcni hahco tihi gloriam ejus, in cvj'us manion unigcnitus 
films spiritum suum tradidit .... Contra lios [the orthodox] audacter evomerb 
pr£Esumunt impietatis suae bilem, atque insanientes, ex mali spiritus blasphemia, 
Sculpticolcts vocant." 


prayer. It was to no blind cliance that the Maoris looked 
when they divined by throwing up lots to find a thief among a 
suspected company ;^ or the Guinea negroes when they went to 
the fetish-priest, who shuffled his bundle of little strips of 
leather and gave his sacred omen.^ The crowd with uplifted 
hands pray to the gods, when the heroes cast lots in the cap of 
Atreides Agamemnon, to know who shall go forth to do battle 
with Hektor and help the well-greaved Greeks.^ With prayer to 
the gods, and looking up to heaven, the German priest or father, 
as Tacitus relates, drew three lots from among the marked fruit- 
tree twigs scattered on a pure white garment, and interpreted 
the answer from their signs.^ As in ancient Italy oracles gave 
responses by graven lots,^ so the modern Hindus decide dis- 
putes by casting lots in front of a temple, appealing to the gods 
with cries of " Let justice be shown ! Show the innocent ! "^ 

The uncivilized man thinks that lots or dice are adjusted in 
their fall with reference to the meaning he may choose to 
attach to it, and especially he is apt to suppose spiritual beings 
standing over the diviner or the gambler, shuffling the lots or 
turning up the dice to make them give their answers. This 
view held its place firmly in the middle ages, and later in 
history we still find games of chance looked on as results of 
supernatural operation. The general change from mediaeval to 
modern notions in this respect is well shown in a remarkable 
work published in 1619, which seems to have done much toward 
bringing the change about. Thomas Gataker, a Puritan 
minister, in his treatise 'Of the Nature and Use of Lots,' states, 
in order to combat them, the following among the current ob- 
jections made against games of chance : — " Lots may not be 
used but with great reverence, because the disposition of them 
commeth immediately from God "...." the nature of a Lot, 

1 Polack, voL i. p. 270. 

2 Bosman, * Guinese Kust,' letter x. ; Eng. Trans, in Pinkerton, voL xvi. 
p. 399. 

^ Homer. Iliad, vii. 171. 

* Tacit. Germania. 10. 

* Smith's 'Die. of Gr. and Rom. Ant.,' arts, 'oraculum,' 'sortes.' 
® Roberts, * Oriental Illustrations,' p. 163. 


which is affirmed to bee a worke of Gods speciall and imme- 
diate providence, a sacred oracle, a divine judgement or sen- 
tence : the light use of it therefore to be an abuse of Gods 
name ; and so a sinne against the third Commandement," 
Gataker, in opposition to this, argues that " to expect the issue 
^nd event of it, as by ordinarie meanes from God, is common to 
all actions : to expect it by an immediate and extraordinarie 
worke is no more lawfull here than elsewhere, yea is indeed 
mere superstition."^ It took time, however, for this opinion to 
become prevalent in the educated world. After a lapse of forty 
years, Jeremy Taylor could still bring out a remnant of the 
older notion, in the course of a geoerally reasonable argument 
in favour of games of chance when played for refreshment and 
not for money. " I have heard," he says, " from them that have 
skill in such things, there are such strange chances, such pro- 
moting of a hand by fancy and little arts of geomancy, such 
constant winning on one side, such unreasonable losses on the 
other, and these strange contingencies produce such horrible 
effects, that it is not improbable that God hath permitted the 
conduct of such games of chance to the devil, who will order 
them so where he can do most mischief; but, without the in- 
strumentality of money, he could do nothing at all."^ With 
what vitality the notion of supernatural interference in games 
of chance even now survives in Europe, is well shown by the 
still flourishing arts of gamblers' magic. The folk-lore of our 
own day continues to teach that a Good Friday's egg is to be 
carried for luck in gaming, and that a turn of one's chair will 
turn one's fortune ; the Tyrolese knows the charm for getting 
from the devil the gift of winning at cards and dice ; there is 
still a great sale on the continent for books which show how to 
discover, from dreams, good numbers for the lottery ; and the 
Lusatian peasant will even hide his lottery-tickets under the 
altar-cloth that they may receive the blessing with the sacra- 
ment, and so stand a better chance of winning. ^ 

Arts of divination and games of chance are so similar in 

^ Gataker, p. 141, 91 ; see Lecky, 'History of Rationalism,' vol. i. p. 307. _J 
^ Jeremy Taylor, Ductor Dubitantium, in 'Works,' vol. xiv. p. 337. 
3 See Wiittke, 'Deutsche Yolksaberglanbe,' p. 95, 115, 178. 


principle, that the very same instrument passes from one use to 
the other. This appears in the accounts, very suggestive from 
this point of view, of the Polynesian art of divination by spin- 
ning the "niu" or cocoa-nut. In the Tongan Islands, in Mariner's 
time, the principal purpose for which this was solemnly per- 
formed was to inquire if a sick person would recover ; prayer 
was made aloud to the patron god of the family to direct the 
nut, which was then spun, and its direction at rest indicated the 
intention of the god. On other occasions, when the cocoa-nut 
was merely spun for amusement, no prayer was made, and no 
credit given to the result. Here the serious and the sportive 
use of this rudimentary teetotum are found together. In the 
Samoan Islands, however, at a later date, the Rev. G. Turner 
finds the practice passed into a different stage. A party sit in 
a circle, the cocoa-nut is spun in the middle, and the oracular 
answer is according to the person towards whom the monkey- 
face of the fruit is turned when it stops ; but whereas formerly 
the Samoans used this as an art of divination to discover thieves, 
now they only keep it up as a way of casting lots, and as a game 
of forfeits.^ It is in favour of the view of serious divination 
being the earlier use, to notice that the New Zealanders, though 
they have no cocoa-nuts, keep up a trace of the time when their 
ancestors in the tropical islands had them and divined with 
them ; for it is the well-known Polynesian word " niu," i. e. 
cocoa-nut, which is still retained in use among the Maoris for 
other kinds of divination, especially that performed with sticks. 
Mr. Taylor, who points out this curiously neat piece of ethnolo- 
gical evidence, records another case to the present purpose. A 
method of divination was to clap the hands together while a 
proper charm was repeated ; if the fingers went clear in, it was 
favourable, but a check was an ill omen ; on the question of a 
party crossing the country in war-time, [the locking of all the 
fingers, or the stoppage of some or all, were naturally inter- 
preted to mean clear passage, meeting a travelling party, or being 
stopped altogether. This quaint little symbolic art of divina- 
tion seems now only to survive as a game ; it is called " puni- 

^ Mariner, 'Tonga Islands,* vol. ii. p. 239; Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 214; 
"Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 228. Compare Cranz, 'Gronland,' p. 231. 


puni."^ A similar connexion between divination and gambling- 
is shown by more familiar instruments. The hncklebones or 
astragali were nsed in divination in ancient Rome, being con- 
verted into rude dice by numbering the four sides, and even 
when the Roman gambler used the tali for gambling, he would 
invoke a god or his mistress before he made his throw.^ Such 
implements are now mostly used for play, but, nevertheless, 
their use for divination was by no means confined to the ancient 
world, for hucklebones are mentioned in the 17th century 
among the fortune-telling instruments which young girls divined 
for husbands with,^ and Negro sorcerers still throw dice as a means 
of detecting thieves.^ Lots serve the two purposes equally well. 
The Chinese gamble by lots for cash and sweetmeats, whilst 
they also seriously take omens by solemn appeals to the lots kejDt 
ready for the purpose in the temples, and professional diviners 
sit in the market-places, thus to open the future to their cus- 
tomers.^ Playing-cards are still in European use for divination. 
That early sort known as " tarots" which the French dealer's 
license to sell " cartes et tarots " still keeps in mind, is said to 
be preferred by fortune-tellers to the common kind ; for the 
tarot-pack, with its more numerous and complex figures, lends 
itself to a greater variety of omens. In these cases, direct 
history fails to tell us whether the use of the instrument for 
omen or play came first. In this respect, the history of the 
Greek " Kottabos " is instructive. This art of divination con- 
sisted in flinging wine out of a cup into a metal basin some dis- 
tance off without spilling any, the thrower saying or thinking 
his mistress's name, and judging from the clear or dull splash 
of the wine on the metal what his fortune in love would be ; 
but in time the magic passed out of the process, and it became 
a mere game of dexterity played for a prize.^ If this be a 
typical case, and the rule be relied on that the serious use pre- 

1 E. Taylor, * New Zealand,' pp. 206, 348, 387. 

2 Smith's Die. art. 'talus.' 

3 Brand, 'Popular Antiquities,' vol. ii. p. 412. , 

4 D. & C. Livingstone, 'Exp. to Zambesi,' p. 51. ) 

5 Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. ii. p. 108, 285—7: see 384; Bastian, 'Oesth 
Asien,'vol. iii. pp. 76, 125. 

6 Smith's Die. art. ' cottabos. * 


cedes the playful, then games of chance may be considered sur- 
vivals in principle or detail from corresponding processes of 
magic — as divination in sport made gambling in earnest. 

Seeking more examples of the lasting on of fixed habits 
among mankind, let us glance at a group of time-honoured 
traditional sayings, old saws which have a special interest as 
cases of survival. Even when the real signification, of these 
phrases has faded out of men's minds, and they have sunk 
into sheer nonsense, or have been overlaid with some modern 
superficial meaning, still the old formulas are handed on, often 
gaining more in mystery than they lose in sense. We may hear 
people talk of '' buying a pig in a poke," whose acquaintance 
with English does not extend to knowing what a poke is. And 
certainly those who wish to say that they have a great mind to 
something, and who express themselves by declaring that they 
have " a month's mind " to it, can have no conception of the 
hopeless nonsense they are making of the old term of the 
"month's mind" which was really the monthly service for a 
dead man's soul, whereby he was kept in mind or remembrance. 
The proper sense of the phrase " sowing his wild oats " seems 
generally lost in our modern use of it. No doubt it once implied 
that these ill weeds would spring up in later years, and how 
hard it would be to root them out. Like the enemy in the 
parable, the Scandinavian Loki, the mischief-maker, is pro- 
verbially said in Jutland to sow his oats (" nu saaer Lokken sin 
havre "), and the name of "Loki's oats " (Lokeshavre) is given 
in Danish to the wild oats (avena fatua).^ Sayings which have 
their source in some obsolete custom or tale, of course lie es- 
pecially open to such ill-usage. It has become mere English to 
talk of an "unlicked cub" who "wants licking into shape," 
while few remember the explanation of these phrases from 
Pliny's story that bears are born as eyeless, hairless, shapeless 
lumps of white flesh, and have afterwards to be licked into 

Again, in relics of old magic and religion, we have sometimes 

1 Grimm, 'Deutsche Myth.' p. 222. 
^ Plin. viii. 54. 


to look for a deeper sense in conventional phrases than they 
now carry on their face, or for a real meaning in what now 
seems nonsense. How an ^ethnographical record may become 
embodied in a popular saying, a Tamil proverb now current in 
South India will show perfectly. On occasions when A hits B, 
and C cries out at the blow, the bystanders will say, " 'Tis like 
a Koravan eating asafoetida when his wife lies in !" Now a 
Koravan belongs to a low race in Madras, and is defined as 
"gypsy, wanderer, ass-driver, thief, eater of rats, dweller in mat 
tents, fortune-teller, and suspected character;" and the explan- 
ation of the proverb is, that whereas native women generally 
eat asafoetida as strengthening medicine after childbirth, among 
the Koravans it is the husband who eats it to fortify himself 
on the occasion. This, in fact, is a variety of the world-wide 
custom of the "couvade," where at childbirth the husband 
undergoes medical treatment, in many cases being put to bed 
for days. It appears that the Koravans are among the races 
practising this quaint custom, and that their more civilized 
Tamil neighbours, struck by its oddity, but unconscious of its 
now forgotten meaning, have taken it up into a proverb.^ Let 
us now apply the same sort of ethnographical key to dark 
sayings in our own modern language. The maxim, " a hair of 
the dog that bit you " was originally neither a metaphor nor a 
joke, but a matter-of-fact recipe for curing the bite of a dog, 
one of the many instances of the ancient homoeopathic doctrine, 
that what hurts will also cure : it is mentioned in the Scandina- 
vian Edda, " Dogs hair heals dog's bite." ^ The phrase " raising 
the wind" now passes as humorous slang, but it once, in all 
seriousness, described one of the most dreaded of the sorcerer's 
arts, practised especially by the Finland wizards, of whose un- 
canny power over the weather our sailors have not to this day 
forgotten their old terror. The ancient ceremony or ordeal of 
passing through a fire or leaping over burning brands has been 
kept up so vigorously in the British Isles, that Jamieson s de- 
rivation of the phrase " to haul over the coals " from this rite 

1 From a letter of Mr. H. J. Stokes, Negapatam. General details of the 
Couvade in ' Early Hist, of Mankind,' p. 293. 

2 Havamal, 138. 


appears in no way far-fetched. It is not long since an 
Irishwoman in New York was tried for killing her child ; she 
had made it stand on burning coals to find out whether it was 
really her own or a changeling.^ The English nurse who says 
to a fretful child, " You got out of bed wrong foot foremost this 
morning," seldom or never knows the meaning of her saying ; 
but this is still plain in the German folklore rule, that to get out 
of bed left foot first will bring a bad day,^ one of the many 
examples of that simple association of ideas which connects right 
and left with good and bad respectively. "To be ready to jump 
out of one's skin " is now a mere phrase expressing surprise or 
delight, but in the old doctrine of Werewolves, not yet extinct 
in Europe, men who are versipelles or turnskins have the actual 
faculty of jumping out of their skins, to become for a time 
wolves. To conclude, the phrase " cheating the devil " seems 
to belong to that familiar series of legends where a man makes 
a compact with the fiend, but at the last moment gets off scot- 
free by the interposition of a saint, or by some absurd evasion — 
such as whistling the gospel he has bound himself not to say, or 
refusing to complete his bargain at the fall of the leaf, on the 
plea that the sculptured leaves in the church are still on their 
boughs. One form of the mediseval compact was for the demon, 
when he had taught his black art to a class of scholars, to seize 
one of them for his professional fee, by letting them all run 
for their lives and catching the last — a story obviously connected 
with another popular saying : " devil take the hindmost." 
But even at this game the stupid fiend may be cheated, as is 
told in the folk-lore of Spain and Scotland. The apt scholar 
only leaves the master his shadow to clutch as the hindmost 
in the race, and with this unsubstantial payment he must needs 
be satisfied, while the new-made magician goes forth free, but 
ever after shadowless.^ 

It seems a fair inference to think folk-lore nearest to its 

* Jamieson, 'Scottish Dictionary,' s. v. 'coals;' R. Hunt, 'Popular Ro- 
mances,' 1st ser. p. 83. 

2 Wuttke, ' Volksaberglanbe,' p. 131. 

^ Rochholz, 'Deutscher Glaube und Brauch,' vol. i. p. 120 ; Grimm, pp. 969 
97G; Wuttke, p. 115. 


source where it has its highest place and meaning. Thus, if 
some old rhyme or saying has in one place a solemn import in 
philosophy or religion, while elsewhere it lies at the level of the 
nursery, there is some ground for treating the serious version 
as the more original, and the playful one as its mere lingering 
survival. The argument is not safe, but yet is not to be quite 
overlooked. For instance, there are two poems kept in remem- 
brance among the modern Jews, and printed at the end of their 
book of Passover services in Hebrew and English. One is that 
known as b^'^i:^ in (Chad gadya) : it begins, " A kid, a kid, my 
father bought for two pieces of money ;" and it goes on to tell 
how a cat came and ate the kicl, and a dog came and bit the 
cat, and so on to the end. — " Then came the Holy One, blessed 
be He ! and slew the angel of death, who slew the butcher, 
who killed the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the 
fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, 
that ate the kid, that my father bought for two pieces of money, 
a kid, a kid." This composition is in the 'Sepher Haggadah,' 
and is looked on by some Jews as a parable concerning the past 
and future of the Holy Land. According to one interpretation, 
Palestine, the kid, is devoured by Babylon the cat ; Babylon is 
overthrown by Persia, Persia by Greece, Greece by Rome, till 
at last the Turks prevail in the land; but the Edomites (i.e. the 
nations of Europe) shall drive out the Turks, the angel of 
death shall destroy the enemies of Israel, and his children 
shall be restored under the rule of Messiah. Irrespectively of 
any such particular interpretation, the solemnity of the ending 
may incline us to think that we really have the composition here 
in something like its first form, and that it was written to convey 
a mystic meaning. If so, then it follows that our familiar 
nursery tale of the old woman who couldn't get her kid (or pig) 
over the stile, and wouldn't get home till midnight, must be con- 
sidered a broken down adaptation of this old Jewish poem. The 
other composition is a counting-poem, and begins thus : — 

" Who knoweth one ? I (saith Israel) know One : 

One is God, who is over heaven and earth. j 

Who knoweth two ? I (saith Israel) know two : 

Two tables of the covenant; but One is onr God who is over the 
heavens and the earth." 


(And so forth, accumulating up to the last verse, which is — ) 

' ' Who knoweth thirteen ? I (saith Israel) know thirteen : Thirteen 
divine attributes, twelve tribes, eleven stars, ten commandments, 
nine manths preceding childbirth, eight days preceding circumcision, 
seven days of the week, six books of the Mishnah, five books of the 
Law, four matrons, three patriarchs, two tables of the covenant ; 
but One is our God who is over the heavens and the earth." 

This is one of a family of counting-poems, apparently held in 
much favour in medissval Christian times ; for they are not yet 
quite forgotten in country places. An old Latin version runs : 
" Unus est Deus," etc., and one of the still-surviving English 
forms begins, " One's One all alone, and ever more shall be so," 
and reckons on as far as " Twelve, the twelve apostles." Here 
both the Jewish and Christian forms are or have been serious, 
so it is possible that the Jew may have imitated the Christian, 
but the nobler form of the Hebrew poem here again gives it a 
claim to be thought the earlier.-^ 

The old proverbs brought down b}^ long inheritance into our 
modern talk are far from being insignificant in themselves, for 
their wit is often as fresh, and their wisdom as pertinent as 
it ever was. Beyond these practical qualities, proverbs are in- 
structive for the place in ethnography which they occupy. 
Their range in civilization is limited ; they seem scarcely to 
belong to the lowest tribes, but appear first in a settled form 
among some of the higher savages. The Fijians, who were 
found a few years since living in what archaeologists might call 
the upper Stone Age, have some well-marked proverbs. They 
laugh at want of forethought by the saying that " The 
JSTakondo people cut the mast first" (i.e., before they had built 
the canoe) ; and when a poor man looks wistfully at what he 
cannot buy, they say, " Becalmed, and looking at the fish."^ 
Among the list of the New Zealanders' " whakatauki," or pro- 
verbs, one describes a lazy glutton : " Deep throat, but shallow 

1 Mendes, 'Service for the First Nights of Passover,' London, 1862 (in the 
Jewish interpretation, the word s/timra,— 'cat,' is compared with Shindr). 
Halliwell, * Nursery Rhymes', p. 288 ; ' Popular Pihymes,' p. 6. 

2 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 110. 


sinews ;" another says that the lazy often profit by the work of 
the industrious : '' The large chips made by Hardwood fall to the 
share of Sit-still ;" a third moralizes that " A crooked part of a 
stem of toetoe can be seen ; but a crooked part in the heart 
cannot be seen."^ Among the Basutos of South Africa, "Water 
never gets tired of running," is a reproach to chatterers ; 
" Lions growl while they are eating," means that there are people 
who never Avill enjoy anything ; " The sowing-month is the 
head-ache-month/' describes those lazy folks who make excuses 
when work is to be done ; " The thief eats thunderbolts," means 
that he will bring down vengeance from heaven on himself^ 
West African nations are especially strong in proverbial philo- 
sophy ; so much so that Captain Burton amused himself through 
the rainy season at Fernando Po in compiling a volime of 
native proverbs,^ among which there are hundreds at about as 
high an intellectual level as those of Europe. " He fled from 
the sword and hid in the scabbard," is as good as our " Out of 
the frying-pan into the fire ;" and " He who has only his eye- 
brow for a cross-bow can never kill an animal," is more 
picturesque, if less terse, than our "Hard words break no 
bones." The old Buddhist aphorism, that " He who indulges in 
enmity is like one who throws ashes to windward, which come 
back to the same place and cover him all over," is put with less 
prose and as much point in the negro saying, " Ashes fly back 
in the face of him w^ho throws them." When some one tries to 
settle an affair in the absence of the people concerned, the negroes 
will object that "You can't shave a man's head when he is 
not tliere," while, to explain that the master is not to be judged 
by the folly of his servant, they say, " The rider is not a fool 
because the horse is." Ingratitude is alluded to in " The sword 
knows not the head of the smith" (who made it), and yet more 
forcibly elsewhere, " When the calabash had saved them (in the 
famine), they said, let us cut it for a drinking-cup." The 
popular contempt for poor men's wisdom is put very neatly in 
the maxim, " When a poor man makes a proverb it does not 

1 Shortland,^ ' Traditions of K Z.' p. 196. \ 

2 Casalis, ' Etudes sur la langiie Sechuana.' ^ 

3 R. F. Burton, * Wit and Wisdom from West Africa.' See also Waitz, vol. ii. 
p. 245. 


spread," while the very mention of making a proverb as some- 
thing likely to happen, shows a land where proverb-making is 
still a living art. Transplanted to the "West Indies, the African 
keeps up this art, as witness these sayings : " Behind dog it is 
dog, but before dog it is Mr. Dog;" and " Toute cabinette tini 
maringouin " — "Every cabin has its mosquito." 

The proverb has not changed its character in the course of 
history ; but has retained from first to last a precisely definite 
type. The proverbial sayings recorded among the higher 
nations of the world are to be reckoned by tens of thousands, 
and have a large and well-knoAvn literature of their own. But 
though the range of existence of proverbs extends into the 
highest levels of civilization, this is scarcely true of their develop- 
ment. At the level of European culture in the middle ages, 
they have indeed a vast importance in popular education, but 
their period of actual growth seems already at an end. Cer- 
vantes raised the proverb-monger's craft to a pitch it never sur- 
passed ; but it must not be forgotten that the incomparable 
Sancho's wares were mostly heirlooms ; for proverbs were even 
then sinking to remnants of an earlier condition of society. As 
such they, survive among ourselves, who go on using much the 
same relics of ancestral wisdom as came out of the squire's in- 
exhaustible budget, old saws not to be lightly altered ^or made 
anew in our changed modern times. We can collect and use 
the old proverbs, but making new ones has become a feeble, 
spiritless imitation, like our attempts to invent new myths or 
new nursery rhymes. 

Riddles start near proverbs in the history of civilization, 
and they travel on long together, though at last towards 
different ends. By riddles are here meant the old-fashioned 
problems with a real answer intended to be discovered, such as 
the t3rpical enigma of the Sphinx, and not the modern verbal 
conundrums set in the traditional form of question and answer, 
as a way of bringing in a jest apropos of nothing. The original 
kind, which may be defined as " sense-riddles," are found at 
home among the upper savages, and range on into the lower 
and middle civilization ; and while their growth stops at this 
level, many ancient specimens have lasted on in the modem 

VOL. I. o 


nursery and by the cottage fireside. There is a plain reason 
why riddles should belong to only the higher grades of savagery ; 
their making requires a fair power of ideal comparison, and 
knowledge must have made considerable advance before this 
process could become so familiar as to fall from earnest into 
sport. At last, in a far higher state of culture, riddles begin to 
be looked on as trifling, their growth ceases, and they only sur- 
vive in remnants for children's play. Some examples, chosen 
among various races, from savagery upwards, will show more 
exactly the place in mental history which the riddle occupies. 

The following are specimens from a collection of Zulu 
riddles, recorded with quaintly simple native comments on the 
philosophy of the matter : — Q. " Guess ye some men who are 
many and form a row ; they dance the wedding-dance, adorned 
in white hip-dresses ?" A. "The teeth ; we call them men who 
form a row, for the teeth stand like men who are made ready 
for a wedding-dance, that they may dance well. When we say, 
they are * adorned with white hip-dresses,' we put that in, that 
people may not at once think of teeth, but be drawn away from 
them by thinking, ' It is men who put on white hip-dresses,' 
and continually have their thoughts fixed on men," etc. Q. 
" Guess ye a man who does not lie down at night : he lies down 
in the morning until the sun sets ; he then awakes, and works 
all night ; he does not Avork by day ; he is not seen when he 
works?" A. ''The closing-poles of the cattle-pen." Q. "Guess 
ye a man whom men do not like to laugh, for it is known that 
his laughter is a veiy great evil, and is followed by lamenta- 
tion, and an end of rejoicing. Men weep, and trees, and grass ; 
and everything is heard weeping in the tribe where he laughs; 
and they say the man has laughed who does not usually laugh ? " 
A. " Fire. It is called a man that what is said may not be at 
once evident, it being concealed by the word ' man.' Men say 
many things, searching out the meaning in rivalry, and missing 
the mark. A riddle is good when it is not discernible at once," 
etc.^ Among the Basutos, riddles are a recognized part of 
education, and are set like exercises to a whole company of 

^ Callaway, ' Kursery Tales, etc. of Zulus,' vol. i. p. 364, etc. 


puzzled children. Q. " Do you know what throws itself from 
the mountain-top without being broken?" A. ''A water- 
fall." Q. " There's a thing that travels fast without legs or 
wings, and no cliff, nor river, nor wall can stop it ? " A. *' The 
voice." Q. " Name the ten trees with ten flat stones on the top 
of them." A, "The fingers." Q. "Who is the little im- 
movable dumb boy who is dressed up warm in the day and left 
naked at night?" A. "The bed-clothes' peg."i From East 
Africa, this Swahili riddle is an example : Q. " My hen has laid 
among thorns?" A. " A pineapple." ^ From West Africa, this 
Yoruba one : '" A long slender trading woman who never gets to 
market?" A. "A canoe (it stops at the landing-place)."^ In 
Polynesia, the Samoan islanders are given to riddles. Q. "There 
are four brothers, who are always bearing about their father ? " 
A. "The Samoan pillow," which is a yard of three-inch bamboo 
resting on four legs. Q. " A white-headed man stands above 
the fence, and reaches to the heavens?" A. " The smoke of the 
oven." Q. "A man who stands between two ravenous fish ?" 
A. "The tongue."^ (There is a Zulu riddle like this, which 
compares the tongue to a man living in the midst of enemies 
fighting.) The following are old Mexican enigmas : Q. " What 
are the ten stones one has at his sides?" A. "The finger- 
nails." Q. " What is it we get into by three parts and out 
of by one ? " A. " A shirt." Q. " What goes through a valley 
and drags its entrails after it ? " J[. " A needle."^ 

These riddles found among the lower races do not differ at all 
in nature from those that have come down, sometimes modern- 
ized in the setting, into the nursery lore of Europe. Thus 
Spanish children still ask, " What is the dish of nuts that is 
gathered by day, and scattered by night ? " (the stars.) Our 
English riddle of the pair of tongs : " Long legs, crooked thighs, 
little head, and no eyes," is primitive enough to have been 

^ Casalis, * Etudes siir La langiie Seclmana,' p. 91 ; 'Basutos,' p. 337. 
2 Steere, ' Swahili Tales,' p. 418. 

^ Burton, *Wit and Wisdom from West Africa,' p. 212. 

^ Turner, ^Polj'nesia,' p. 216. See Polack, 'New Zealandcrs,' vol. ii. p. 171. 
* Sahagun, * Historia de Nueva Espaiia,' in Kingsboroiigh's ' Antiquities of 
Mexico,' vol. vii. p. 178. 

G 2 


made by a South Sea Islander. The following is on the same 
theme as one of the Zulu riddles : " A flock of white sheep, On 
a red hill ; Here they go, there they go ; Now they stand still ? " 
Another is the very analogue of one of the Aztec specimens : 
" Old Mother Twitchett had but one eye, And a long tail which 
she let fly ; And every time she went over a gap, She left a bit 
of her tail in a trap ? " 

So thoroughly does riddle-making belong to the mythologic 
stage of thought, that any poet's simile, if not too far-fetched, 
needs only inversion to be made at once into an enigma. The 
Hindu calls the Sun Saptasva, i. e., " seven-horsed," while, with 
the same thought, the old German riddle asks, " What is the 
chariot drawn by seven white and seven black horses ? " (the 
year, drawn by the seven days and nights of the week.^) Such, 
too, is the Greek riddle of the two sisters. Day and Night, who 
give birth each to the other, to be born of her again : 

EiVi KaffiyvTjrai diTTai, uv 7] fiia ri/crei 

Ti]u eTfpaVy avr^ Se reKOva* virh r^sSe reKVovrai. 

and the enigma of Kleoboulos, with its other like fragments of 
rudimentary mythology : 

Efs 6 irarripf iralSes 8e SucoSexa* tuv Se y' e/coCTy 
HaiSes eacri rpii\K0VT* ot'Stxo ilBos exovcrai* 

* Addvaroi 54 t' iovcrai aTrocpdiuovciv airaarai. 

*' One is the father, and twelve the children, and, born unto each one, 
Maidens thirty, whose form in twain is parted asunder, 
White to behold on the one side, black to behold on the other, 
All immortal in being, yet doomed to dwindle and perish."^ 

Such questions as these may be fairly guessed now as in old 
times, and must be distinguished from that scarcer class which 
require the divination of some unlikely event to solve them. 
Of such the typical example is Samson's riddle, and there is an 
old Scandinavian one like it. The story is that Gestr found a. 

1 Grimm, p. 699. 

- Diog. Laert. i. 91 ; Athenagoras, x. 451. 


duck sitting on her nest in an ox's horned skull, and thereupon 
propounded a riddle, describing with characteristic Northman's 
metaphor the ox with its horns fancied as already made into 
drinking-horns. The following translation does not exaggerate 
the quaintness of the original : — " Joying in children, the bill- 
goose grew, And her building-timbers together drew ; The biting 
grass-shearer screened her bed, With the maddening drink- 
stream overhead." ^ Many of the old oracular responses are 
puzzles of precisely this kind. Such is the story of the Delphic 
oracle, which ordered Temenos to find a man with three eyes to 
guide the army, which injunction he fulfilled by meeting a one- 
eyed man on horseback.^ It is curious to find this idea again 
in Scandinavia, where Odin sets King Heidrek a riddle, " Who 
are they two that fare to the Thing with three eyes, ten feet, 
and one tail ? " the answer being, the one-eyed Odin himself on 
his eight-footed horse Sleipnir.^ 

The close bearing of the doctrine of survival on the study of 
manners and customs is constantly coming into view in ethno- 
graphic research. It seems scarcely too much to assert, once for 
all, that meaningless customs must be survivals, that they had 
a practical, or at least ceremonial, intention when and where 
they first arose, but are now fallen into absurdity from having 
been carried on into a new state of society, where their original 
sense has been discarded. Of course, new customs introduced 
in particular ages may be ridiculous or wicked, but as a rule 
they have discernible motives. Explanations of this kind, by 
recourse to some forgotten meaning, seem on the whole to 
account best for obscure customs which some have set down to 
mere outbreaks of spontaneous folly. A certain Zimmermann, 
who published a heavy ' Geographical History of Mankind ' in 

^ Mannhardt's * Zeitschr. fiir Deutsche Mythologie,' vol. iii. p. 2, etc. : 

** Nog er forthuii nosgds vaxin, 
Barngjorn su er bar biitimbr saman ; 
Hlifthu henni halms bitskdlmir, 
Th6 Id drykkjar drynhronn yfir." 

' See Grote, 'Hist, of Greece,' vol. ii. p. 5. 
^ Mannhardt's * Zeitschr.' 1. c. 


the last century, remarks as follows on the prevalence of similar 
nonsensical and stupid customs in distant countries : — ''' For if 
two clever heads may, each for himself, hit upon a clever inven- 
tion or discovery, then it is far likelier, considering the much 
larger total of fools and blockheads, that like fooleries should be 
given to two far distant lands. If, then, the inventive fool be 
likewise a man of importance and influence, as is, indeed, an 
extremely frequent case, then both nations adopt a similar 
folly, and then, centuries after, some historian goes through it 
to extract his evidence for the derivation of these two nations 
one from the other." ^ 

Strong views as to the folly of mankind seem to have been in 
the air about the time of the French Revolution. Lord Chester- 
field was no doubt an extremely different person from our 
German philosopher, but they were quite at one as to the 
absurdity of customs. Advising his son as to the etiquette 
of courts, the Earl writes thus to him : — " For example, it is 
respectful to bow to the King of England, it is disrespectful to 
bow to the King of France ; it is the rule to courtesy to the 
Emperor ; and the prostration of the whole body is required by 
Eastern Monarchs. These are established ceremonies, and must 
be complied with ; but why they were established, I defy sense 
and reason to tell us. It is the same among all ranks, where 
certain customs are received, and must necessarily be complied 
with, though by no means the result of sense and reason. As. 
for instance, the very absurd, though almost universal custom 
of drinking people's healths. Can there be anything in the 
world less relative to any other man's health, than my drinking 
a glass of wine ? Common sense, certainly, never pointed it 
out, but yet common sense tells me I must conform to it." ^ 
Now, though it might be difficult enough to make sense of the 
minor details of court etiquette, Lord Chesterfield's example from 
it of the irrationality of mankind is a singularly unlucky one. 
Indeed, if any one were told to set forth in few words the rela- 
tions of the people to their rulers in different states of society, 

^ E. A. "VY. Zimmermann, 'GeograpliisclieGeschiclite dcsMeiischen,' etc., 177S^' 
— 83, vol. iii. See Rolleston's Inaugural Address, British Association, 1870. 
- Earl of Chesterfield, ' liCtters to his Son,' vol. ii. No. Ixviii. 


he might answer that men grovel on their faces before the King 
of Siam, kneel on one knee or uncover before a European 
monarch, and shake the hand of the President of the United 
States as though it were a pump-handle. These are ceremonies 
at once intelligible and significant. Lord Chesterfield is more 
fortunate in his second instance, for the custom of drinking 
healths is really of obscure origin. Yet it is closely connected 
with an ancient rite, practically absurd indeed, but done with a 
conscious and serious intention which lands it quite outside the 
region of nonsense. This is the custom of pouring out libations 
and drinking at ceremonial banquets to gods and the dead. 
Thus the old Scandinavians drank the " minni " of Thor, Odin, 
and Freya, and of kings likewise at their funerals. The custom 
did not die out with the conversion of the northern nations, who 
changed the object of worship and drank the "minne" of Christ, 
of Mary, of Michael, and then, in later centuries, of St. John and 
St. Gertrude, and so up to modern years, when it was reckoned a 
curious relic of antiquity that the priest of Otbergen still once 
a year blessed a goblet, and the people drank John's blessing 
in it. The " minne " was at once love, memory, and the thought 
of the absent, and it long survived in England in the " min- 
nying " or " mynde " days, on which the memory of the dead 
was celebrated by services or banquets. Such evidence as this 
fairly justifies the writers, older and newer, who have treated 
these ceremonial drinkins: usac^es as in their nature sacrificial.^ 
As for the practice of drinking the health of living men, its 
ancient history reaches us from several districts inhabited by 
Aryan nations. The Greeks in symposium drank to one an- 
other, and the Romans adopted the habit {jTpoTTiveiv, propi- 
nare, Graeco more bibere). The Goths cried " hails ! " as they 
pledged each other, as we have it in the curious first line of the 
verses " De conviviis barbaris " in the Latin Anthology, which 
sets down the shouts of a Gothic drinking-bout of the fifth 
century or so, in words which still partly keep their sense to an 
English ear : — 

*' Inter eiU Goticum scapiamatziaia drincan 
Non audet quisquam dignos educere versus." 

» See Grimm, pp. 52—5, 1201 ; Brand, voL ii. pp. 314, 325, etc. 


As for ourselves, though the old drinking salutation of "waes 
hsel ! " is no longer vulgar English, the formula remains with 
us, stiffened into a noun. On the whole, the evidence of ancient 
and wide prevalence of the custom of drinking to the living 
seems not accompanied with a sufficient clue to its rational 
origin, although, by comparison with the custom of drinking to 
^ods and the dead, we may take for granted that it had one. 

Let us now put the theory of survival to a somewhat severe 
test, by seeking from it some explanation of the existence, in 
practice or memory, within the limits of modern civilized society, 
of three remarkable groups of customs which civilized ideas 
totally fail to account for. Though we may not succeed in 
giving clear and absolute explanations of their motives, at any 
rate it is a step in advance to be able to refer their origins to 
savage or barbaric antiquity. Looking at these customs from 
the modern practical point of view, one is ridiculous, the others 
are atrocious, and all are senseless. The first is the practice of 
salutation on sneezing, the second the rite of laying the founda- 
tions of a building on a human victim, the third the prejudice 
against saving a drowning man. 

In interpreting the customs connected with sneezing, it is 
needful to recognize a prevalent doctrine of the lower races, of 
which a full account will be given in another chapter. As a 
man^s soul is considered to go in and out of his body, so it is 
with other spirits, particularly such as enter into patients and 
possess them or afflict them with disease. Among the less 
cultured races, the connexion of this idea with sneezing is best 
shown among the Zulus, a people firmly persuaded that kindly 
or angry spirits of the dead hover about them, do them good or 
harm, stand visibly before them in dreams, enter into them, and 
cause diseases in them. The following particulars are abridged 
from the native statements taken down by Dr. Callaway: — 
When a Zulu sneezes, he will say, " I am now blessed. The 
Idhlozi (ancestral spirit) is with me ; it has come to me. Let 
me hasten and praise it, for it is it which causes me to 
sneeze ! " So he praises the manes of the family, asking for 
cattle, and wives, and blessings. Sneezing is a sign that a sick 
person will be restored to health ; he returns thanks after 


sneezing, saying, " Ye people of ours, I have gained that pros- 
perity which I wanted. Continue to look on me with favour ! " 
Sneezing reminds a man that he should name the Itongo 
(ancestral spirit) of his people without delay, because it is the 
Itongo which causes him to sneeze, that he may perceive by 
sneezing that the Itongo is with him. If a man is ill and does 
not sneeze, those who come to him ask whether he has sneezed 
or not ; if he has not sneezed, they murmur, saying, " The 
disease is great !" If a child sneezes, they say to it, " Grow ! '* 
it is a sign of health. So then, it is said, sneezing among black 
men gives a man strength to remember that the Itongo has 
entered into him and abides with him. The Zulu diviners or 
sorcerers are very apt to sneeze, which they regard as an indica- 
tion of the presence of the spirits, whom they adore by saying 
" Makosi ! " (i.e., lords or masters). It is a suggestive example 
-of the transition of such customs as these from one religion to 
another, that the Amakosa, who used to call on their divine 
ancestor Utixo when they sneezed, since their conversion to 
Christianity say, " Preserver, look upon me ! " or, " Creator of 
heaven and earth ! " ^ Elsewhere in Africa, similar ideas are 
mentioned. Sir Thomas Browne, in his ' Vulgar Errors,' made 
well known the story that when the King of Monomotapa 
sneezed, acclamations of blessing passed from mouth to mouth 
through the city ; but he should have mentioned that Godigno, 
from whom the original account is taken, said that this took 
place when the king drank, or coughed, or sneezed.^ A later 
account from the other side of the continent is more to the 
purpose. In Guinea, in the last century, when a principal 
personage sneezed, all present fell on their knees, kissed the 
earth, clapped their hands, and wished him all happiness and 
prosperity.^ With a different idea, the negroes of Old Calabar, 
when a child sneezes, will sometimes exclaim, " Far from you ! " 
with an appropriate gesture as if throwing off some evil.* 
Pol}mesia is another region where the sneezing salutation is 

* Callaway, 'Religion of Amazulu,' pp. 64, 222—5, 263. 

2 Godignus, ' Vita Patris Gonzali Sylveriae.' Col. Agripp. 1616 ; lib. ii. c. x. 

3 Bosman, * Guinea,' letter xviii. in PinkertoD, vol. xvi. p. 478. 
'^ Burton, * Wit and Wisdom from West Africa,' p. 373. 


well marked. In New Zealand, a charm was said to prevent 
evil when a child sneezed ; ^ if a Samoan sneezed, the by- 
standers said, " Life to you ! " ^ Y/hile in the Tongan group a 
sneeze on the starting of an expedition was a most evil pre- 
sage.^ A curious American instance dates from Hernando de 
Soto's famous expedition into Florida, when Guachoya, a 
native chief, came to pay him a visit. " While this was going 
on, the cacique Guachoya gave a great sneeze ; the gentlemen 
who had come with him and were lining the walls of the hall 
among the Spaniards there all at once bowing their heads, 
opening their arms and closing them again, and making other 
gestures of great veneration and respect, saluted him with 
different words, all directed to one end, saying, 'The Sun guard 
thee, be with thee, enlighten thee, mag-nify thee, protect thee, 
favour thee, defend thee, prosper thee, save thee,' and other 
like phrases, as the words came, and for a good space there 
lingered the murmur of these words among them, whereat the 
governor wondering said to the gentlemen and captains with 
him, ' Do you not see that all the world is one ? ' This matter 
was well noted among the Spaniards, that among so barbarous 
a people should be used the same ceremonies, or greater, than 
among those who hold themselves to be very civilized. Whence 
it may be believed that this manner of salutation is natural 
among all nations, and not caused by a pestilence, as is vulgarly 
said," etc.^ 

In Asia and Europe, the sneezing superstition extends through 
a wide range of race, age, and country.^ Among the passages, 
relating to it in the classic ages of Greece and Eome, the follow- 
ing are some of the most characteristic, — the lucky sneeze of 

1 Shortknd, 'Trads. of New Zealand,' p. 131. 

2 Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 348 ; see also Williams, 'Fiji,' vol i. p. 250. 
^ Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. i. p. 456. 

* Garcilaso de la Vega, ' Hist, de la Florida,' vol. iii. ch. xli. 

* Among dissertations on the subject, see especially Sir Thos. Browne^ 
' Pseudodoxia Epidemica ' (Vulgar Errors), book iv. chap. ix. ; Brand, ' Popular 
Antiquities,' vol. iii. p. 119, etc. ; E. G. Haliburton, ' New Materials for the 
History of Man.' Halifax, N. S. 1863 ; 'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' art. 'snee- 
zing;' "Wernsdorf, 'De Ritu Sternutantibus bene precandi.' Leipzig, 1741; see 
also Grimm, D. M. p. 1070, note. 


Telemachos in the Odyssey ; ^ the soldier's sneeze and the shout 
of adoration to the god which rose along the ranks, and which 
Xenophon appealed to as a favourable omen ; ^ Aristotle's 
remark that people consider a sneeze as divine (t6v jueu irrapfjiov 
Oeov 7]yov^€6a eTuat), but not a cough,^ etc. ; the Greek epigram 
on the man with the long nose, wdio did not say Zev aooaov when 
he sneezed, for the noise w^as too far off for him to hear ; * Petro- 
nius Arbiter's mention of the custom of saying " Salve ! " to one 
who sneezed ; -* and Pliny's question, " Cur sternutamentis salu- 
tamus ? " apropos of wdiich he remarks that even Tiberius 
Caesar, that saddest of men, exacted this observance.^ Similar 
rites of sneezing have long been observed in Eastern AsiaJ 
When a Hindu sneezes, bystanders say, " Live ! " and the 
sneezer replies, "With you!" It is an ill omen, to which 
among others the Thugs paid great regard on starting on an 
expedition, and which even compelled them to let the travellers 
with them escape.^ 

The Jewish sneezing formula is, " Tobim chayim ! " i. e., 
" Good life ! " ^ The Moslem says, " Praise to Allah ! " when 
he sneezes, and his friends compliment him with proper for- 
mulas, a custom which seems to be conveyed from race to race 
wherever Islam extends.^^ Lastly, the custom ranged through 
mediaeval into modern Europe. To cite old German examples, 
" Die Heiden nicht endorften niesen, da man doch sprichet 
' Nu helfiu Got ! '" " Wir sprechen, swer niuset. Got helfe dir." ^^ 
For a combined English and French example, the following 

^ Homer Odyss. xvii. 541. 

' Xenophon Anabasis, iii. 2, 9. 

2 Aristot. Problem, xxxiii. 7. 

^ Anthologia Graeca, Bniiick, vol. iii. p. 95. 

» Patron. Arb. Sat. 98. 

^ Plin. xxviii. 5. 

7 Noel, ' Die. dcs Origines ; ' Migne, 'Die. des Superstitions,' etc. Bastian, 
* Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 129. 

^ Ward, * Hindoos,' vol. i. p. 142 ; Dubois, ' Peuples de I'lndc,' vol. i. p. 465 ; 
Sleeman, * Ramaseeana,' p. 120. 

^ Buxtorf, 'Lexicon Chaldaicum ;' Tendlau, * Spricliworter, etc. Deutsch- 
Judischer Vorzeit' Frankf. a. M., 1860, p. 142. 

^0 Lane, 'Modem Egyj.tians,' vol. i. p. 282. See Grant, in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' 
vol. iii. p. 90. 

11 Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 1070, 1110. 


lines (a.d. 1100) may serve, which show our old formula " wses 
hsel ! " ("may you be well ! " — "wassail ! ") used also to avert 
being taken ill after a sneeze : — 

** E pur Tine feyze esternuer 
Tantot quident mal trouer, 
Si ueslieil ne diez aprez . " ^ 

In the 'Rules of Civility' (a.d. 1685, translated from the 
French) we read : — " If his lordship chances to sneeze, you are 
not to bawl out, * God bless you, sir,' but, pulling off your hat, 
bow to him handsomely, and make that obsecration to your- 
self." ^ It is noticed that Anabaptists and Quakers rejected 
these with other salutations, but they remained in the code of 
English good manners among high and low till half a century 
or so ago, and are so little forgotten now, that most people still 
see the point of the story of the fiddler and his wife, where his 
sneeze and her hearty "God bless you!" brought about the 
removal of the fiddle case. " Gott hilf ! " may still be heard in 
Germany, and " Felicita ! " in Italy. 

It is not strange that the existence of these absurd customs 
should have been for ages a puzzle to curious inquirers. Espe- 
cially the legend-mongers took the matter in hand, and their 
attempts to devise historical explanations are on record in a 
group of philosophic myths, — Greek, Jewish, Christian. Prome- 
theus prays for the preservation of his artificial man, when it 
gives the first sign of life by a sneeze ; Jacob prays that man's 
soul may not, as heretofore, depart from his body when he 
sneezes ; Pope Gregory prays to avert the pestilence, in those 
days when the air was so deadly that he who sneezed died of 
it; and from these imaginary events legend declares that the use 
of the sneezing formulas was handed down. It is more to our 
purpose to notice the existence of a corresponding set of ideas 
and customs connected with gaping. Among the Zulus repeated 
yawning and sneezing are classed together as signs of approach- 

^ 'Manuel des Pecclies,' in Wedgwood, 'Die. English Etjrmology,' s. v. 
wassail. ' 
2 Brand, vol. iii. p. 126. 


ing spiritual possession.^ The Hindu, when he gapes, must 
snap his thumb and finger, and repeat the name of some god, 
as Rama : to neglect this is a sin as great as the murder of a 
Brahman.2 The Persians ascribe yawning, sneezing, etc., to 
demoniacal possession. Among the modern Moslems generally, 
when a man yawns, he puts the back of his left hand to his 
mouth, saying, "I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the 
accursed ! " but the act of yawning is to be avoided, for the 
Devil is in the habit of leaping into a gaping mouth.^ This 
may very likely be the meaning of the Jewish proverb, " Open 
not thy mouth to Satan ! " The other half of this idea shows 
itself clearly in Joseph us' story of his having seen a certain 
Jew, named Eleazar, cure demoniacs in Vespasian's time, by 
drawing the demons out through their nostrils, by means of a 
ring containing a root of mystic virtue mentioned by Solomon.* 
The accounts of the sect of the Messalians, who used to spit 
and blow their noses to expel the demons they might have 
drawn in with their breath,^ the records of the mediaeval exor- 
cists driving out devils through the patients' nostrils,^ and the 
custom, still kept up in the Tyrol, of crossing oneself when one 
yawns, lest something evil should come into one's mouth,^ 
involve similar ideas. In comparing the modern Kafir ideas 
with those of other districts of the world, we find a distinct 
notion of a sneeze being due to a spiritual presence. This, 
which seems indeed the key to the whole matter, has been 
well brought into view by Mr. Haliburton, as displayed in 
Keltic folklore, in a group of stories turning on the super- 
stition that any one who sneezes is liable to be carried off 
by the fairies, unless their power be counteracted by an invo- 
cation, as " God bless you ! " ^ The corresponding idea as to 

^ Callaway, p. 2G3. 

2 Ward, 1. c. 

3 * Pend-Nameh,' tr. de Sacy, ch. Ixiii. ; Maury, 'Magie,' etc., p. 302;. 
Lane, I. c. 

"* G. Brecher, * Das Transcendentale im Talmud,' p. 168 ; Joseph. Ant. 
Jud. viii. 2, 5. 
^ Migne, * Die. des Heresies,* s. v. 
^ Bastian, *Mensch.' vol. ii. pp. 115, 322. 
7 Wuttke, 'Deutsche Volksaberglaube,' p. 137. 
^ Haliburton, op. cit. 


yawning is to be found in an Iceland folklore legend, where 
the troll, who has transformed herself into the sliape of the 
beautiful queen, says, " When I yawn a little yawn, I am a 
neat and tiny maiden ; when I yawn a half-yawn, then I am as 
a half-troll ; when I yawn a whole yawn, then am I as a whole 
troll." ^ On the whole, though the sneezing superstition makes 
no approach to universality among mankind, its wide distribu- 
tion is highly remarkable, and it would be an interesting 
problem to decide how far this wide distribution is due to 
independent growth in several regions, how far to conveyance 
from race to race, and how far to ancestral inheritance. Here 
it has only to be maintained that it was not originally an arbi- 
trary and meaningless custom, but the working out of a prin- 
ciple." The plain statement by the modern Zulus fits with the 
hints to be gained from the superstition and folklore of other 
races, to connect the notions and practices as to sneezing with 
the ancient and savage doctrine of pervading and invading 
spirits, considered as good or evil, and treated accordingly. 
The lingering survivals of the quaint old formulas in modern 
Europe seem an unconscious record of the time when the 
explanation of sneezing had not yet been given over to physio- 
logy, but was still in the " theological stage." 
^ There is current in Scotland the belief that the Picts, to 
whom local legend attributes buildings of prehistoric antiquity, 
bathed their foundation-stones with human blood ; and legend 
even tells that St. Columba found it necessary to bury St. Oran 
alive beneath the foundation of his monastery, in order to pro- 
pitiate the spirits of the soil who demolished by night what 
was built during the day. So late as 1843, in Germany, when 
a new bridsfe was built at Halle, a notion was abroad amonof 
the people that a child was wanted to be built into the founda- 
tion. These ideas of church or wall or bridge wanting human 
blood or an immured victim to make the foundation steadfast, 

^ Powell and Magnussen, ' Legends of Iceland,' 2nd ser. p. 448. 

' The cases in which a sneeze is interpreted under special conditions, as with 
reference to right and left, earl}'- morning, etc. (see Plutarch. De Genio 
Socratis, etc.), are not considered here, as they belong to ordinary omen- 


are not only widespread in European folklore, but local chro- 
nicle or tradition asserts them as matter of historical fact in 
district after district. Thus, when the broken dam of the Nogat 
had to be rejoaired in 1463, the peasants, on the advice to throw 
in a living man, are said to have made a beggar drunk and 
buried him there. Thuringian legend declares that to make 
the castle of Liebenstein fast and impregnable, a child was 
bought for hard money of its mother and walled in. It was 
eating a cake while the masons were at work, the story goes, 
and it cried out, ''Mother, I see thee still;" then later, "Mother, 
I see thee a little still ; " and, as they put in the last stone, 
" Mother, now I see thee no more." The Avail of Copenhagen, 
legend says, sank as fast as it was built ; so they took an in- 
nocent little girl, set her on a chair at a table with toys and 
eatables, and, as she played and ate, twelve master-nnasons 
closed a vault over her; then, with clanging music, the wall 
was raised, and stood firm ever after. Thus Italian legend tells 
of the bridge of Arta, that fell in and fell in till they walled in 
the master-builder's wife, and she spoke her dying curse that 
the bridge should tremble like a flower-stalk henceforth. The 
Slavonic chiefs founding Detinez, according to old heathen 
custom, sent out men to take the first boy they met and bury 
him in the foundation. Servian legend tells how three brothers 
combined to build the fortress of Skadra (Scutari) ; but, year 
after year, the demon (vila) razed by night what the three 
hundred masons built by day. The fiend must be appeased by 
a human sacrifice, the first of the three wives who should come 
bringing food to the workmen. All three brothers swore to 
keep the dreadful secret from their wives ; but the two eldest 
gave traitorous warning to theirs, and it was the youngest 
brother's wife who came unsuspecting, and they built her in. 
But she entreated that an opening should be left for her to 
suckle her baby through, and for a twelvemonth it was brought. 
To this day, Servian wives visit the tomb of the good mother, still 
marked by a stream of water which trickles, milky with lime, 
down the fortress wall. Lastly, there is our own legend of Yor- 
tigern, who could not finish his tower till the foundation-stone 
was wetted with the blood of a child born of a mother without 


a father. As is usual in the history of sacrifice, we hear of sub- 
stitutes for such victims ; empty coffins walled up in Germany, 
a lamb walled in under the altar in Denmark to make the 
church stand fast, and the churchyard in like manner hand- 
selled by burying a live horse first. In modern Greece an 
evident relic of the idea survives in the superstition that the 
first passer-by after a foundation-stone is laid will die within 
the year, wherefore the masons will compromise the debt by 
killing a lamb or a black cock on the stone. With much the 
same idea German legend tells of the bridge-building fiend 
cheated of his promised fee, a soul, by the device of making a 
cock run first across ; and thus German folklore says it is well, 
before entering a new house, to let a cat or dog run in.^ From 
all this it seems that, with due allowance for the idea having 
passed into an often repeated and varied mythic theme, yet 
written and unwritten tradition do preserve the memory of a 
bloodthirsty barbaric rite, which not only really existed in 
ancient times, but lingered long in European history. If now 
we look to less cultured countries, we shall find the rite actually 
known as matter of modern religion. The thing has been done 
within modern years, and very likely will be done again. 

In Africa, in Galam, a boy and girl used to be buried alive 
before the great gate of the city to make it impregnable, a 
practice once executed on a large scale by a Bambarra tyrant ; 
while in Great Bassam and Yarriba such sacrifices were usual at 
the foundation of a house or village.^ In Polynesia, Ellis heard 
of the custom, instanced by the fact that the central pillar of one 
of the temples at Maeva was planted upon the body of a human 
victim.^ In Borneo, among the Milanau Dayaks, at the erection 
of the largest house a deep hole was dug to receive the first 
post, which was then suspended over it ; a slave girl was placed 
in the excavation ; at a signal the lashings were cut, and the 
enormous timber descended, crushing the girl to death, a sacri- 

^ "W. Scott, 'Minstrelsy of Scottish Border ; ' Forbes Leslie, 'Early Races of 
Scotland,' vol. i. p. 149, 487 ; Grimm, * Deutsche Mythologie,' p. 972, 1095 ; 
Bastian, 'Mensch,' voL ii. p. 92, 407, vol. iii. p. 105, 112; Bowring, 'Servian 
Popular Poetry,' p. 64. 

2 Waitz, vol. ii. p. 197. 

3 Ellis, 'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 346 ; Tyerman and Bennet, vol. ii. p. 39. 


fice to the spirits. St. John saw a milder form of the rite 
performed, when the chief of the Quop Dayaks set up a flag- 
staff near his house, a chicken being thrown in to be crushed 
by the descending pole.^ More cultured nations of Southern 
Asia have carried on into modern ages the rite of the foundation- 
sacrifice. A 17th century account of Japan mentions the belief 
there that a wall laid on the body of a willing human victim, 
would be secure from accident ; accordingly, when a great wall 
was to be built, some wretched slave would offer himself as 
foimdation, lying down in the trench to be crushed by the 
heavy stones lowered upon him.^ When the gate of the new 
city of Tavoy, in Tenasserim, was built, perhaps twenty years 
ago, Mason was told by an eye-witness that a criminal was 
put in each post-hole to become a protecting demon. Thus it 
appears that such stories as that of the human victims buried 
for spirit-watchers under the gates of Mandalay, of the queen 
who was drowned in a Birmese reservoir to make the dyke safe, 
of the hero whose divided body was buried under the fortress of 
Thatung to make it impregnable, are the records, whether in 
historical or mythical form, of the actual customs of the land.^ 
Within our own dominion, when Rajah Sala Byne was building 
the fort of Sialkot in the Punjaub, the foundation of the south- 
east bastion gave way so repeatedly that he had recourse to a 
soothsayer, who assured him that it would never stand until 
the blood of an only son was shed there, wherefore the only 
son of a widow was sacrificed.* It is thus plain that hideous 
rites, of which Europe has scarcely kept up more than the dim 
memory, have held fast their ancient practice and meaning in 
Africa, Pol3rnesia, and Asia, among races who represent in grade, 
if not in chronology, earlier stages of civilization. 

When Sir Walter Scott, in the 'Pirate,' tells of Bryce the pedlar 
refusing to help Mordaunt to save the shipwrecked sailor from 
drowning, and even remonstrating with him on the rashness of 

* St. John, ' Far East,* voL i. p. 46 ; see Bastian, voL ii. p. 407. 

2 Caron, 'Japan,' in Pinkerton, voL vii. p. 623. 

3 Bastian, ' OestL Asien,' voL i. pp. 193, 214 ; vol. ii. pp. 91, 270 ; vol. iii. 
p. 16. 

* Bastian, 'Menscli.' vol. iii. p. 107. 

VOL. I. H 


such a deed, he states an old superstition of the Shetlanders. 
'"Are you mad ?" says the pedlar; "you that have lived sae lang 
in Zetland, to risk the saving of a drowning man ? Wot ye 
not, if you bring him to life again, he will be sure to do you 
some capital injur}'"?" Were this inhuman thought noticed in 
this one district alone, it might be fancied to have had its rise 
in some local idea now no longer to be explained. But when 
mentions of similar superstitions are collected among the St. 
Kilda islanders and the boatmen of the Danube, among French 
and English sailors, and even out of Europe and among less 
civilized races, we cease to think of local fancies, but look for 
some widely accepted belief of the lower culture to account for 
such a state of things. The Hindu does not save a man from 
drowning in the sacred Ganges, and the islanders of the Malay 
archipelago share the cruel notion.^ Of all people the rude 
Kamchadals have the prohibition in the most remarkable form. 
They hold it a great fault, says Kracheninnikoff, to save a 
drowning man ; he who delivers him will be drowned himself.^ 
Steller's account is more extraordinary, and probably applies 
only to cases where the victim is actually drowning : he says 
that if a man fell by chance into the water, it was a great sin 
for him to get out, for as he had been destined to drown he did 
wrong in not drowning, wherefore no one would let him into his 
dwelling, nor speak to him, nor give him food or a wife, but he 
was reckoned for dead ; and even when a man fell into the water 
while others were standing by, far from helping him out they would 
drown him by force. Now these savages, it appears, avoided 
volcanoes because of the spirits who live there and cook their 
food ; for a like reason they held it a sin to bathe in hot springs ; 
and they believed with fear in a fish-like spirit of the sea, whom 
they called Mitgk.^ This spiritualistic belief among the Kam- 
chadals is, no doubt, the key to their superstition as to rescuing 
drowning men. There is even to be found in modern European 
superstition, not only the practice, but with it a lingering sur- 
vival of its ancient spiritualistic significance. In Bohemia, a 

^ Bastian, 'Mensch.' vol. iii. p. 210 ; Ward, 'Hindoos,' voL ii. p. 318. y 

^ Kracheiiinnikow, *Descr. dii Kamchatka, Voy. en Siberie,' voL iii. p. 72. 
3 Steller, *Kamtschatka,' pp. 265, 274. 


recent account (1864) says the fishermen do not venture to 
snatch a drownhig man from the waters. They fear that the 
"Waterman" (i. e., water-demon) 'would take aAvay their luck 
in fishing, and drown themselves at the first opportunity.^ This 
explanation of the prejudice against saving the water-spirit's 
victim may be confirmed by a mass of evidence from various 
districts of the world. Thus, in discussing the doctrine of sacri- 
fice, it will appear that the usual manner of making an offering 
to a well, river, lake, or sea, is simply to cast property, cattle, 
or men into the v/ater, which personally or by its in-dwelling 
spirit takes possession of them.^ That the accidental drowning 
of a man is held to be such a seizure, savage and civilized folk- 
lore show by many examples. In New Zealand huge super- 
natural reptile-monsters, called Taniwha, live in river-bends, 
and those who are drowned are said to be pulled under by 
them f the Siamese fears the Pnlik or water-spirit that seizes 
bathers and drags them under to his dwelling;^ in Slavonic 
lands it is Topielec (the ducker) by whom men are always 
drowned f when some one is drowned in Germany, people re- 
collect the religion of their ancestors, and say, " The river-spirit 
claims his yearly sacrifice," or, more'simply, "The nix has taken 

** Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen, 
Am Ende Fischer und Kahn ; 
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen 
Die Lorelei gethan." 

From this point of view it is obvious that to save a sinking man 
is to snatch a victim from the very clutches of the water-spirit, 
a rash defiance of deity which would hardly pass unavenged. 
In the civilized world the rude old theological conception of 
drowning has long been superseded by physical explanation; 
and the prejudice against rescue from such a death may have 

^ J. V. Grohmann, ' Aberglaube und Gebrauche aus Bohmen,' p. 12. 

2 Chap. XVIII. 

» R. Taylor, * New Zealand,' p. 48. 

* Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 34. 

'" Hanusch, ' Wissenschaft des Slawischen Mythus,' p. 299. 

6 Grimm, 'Deutsche Myth.' p. 462. 

H 2 


now almost or altogether disappeared. But archaic ideas, 
drifted on into modern folklore and poetry, still bring to onr 
view an apparent connexion between the primitive doctrine and 
the surviving custom. 

As the social development of the world goes on, the weightiest 
thoughts and actions may dwindle to mere survival. Original 
meaning dies out gradually, each generation leaves fewer and 
fewer to bear it in mind, till it falls out of popular memory, and 
in after days ethnography has to attempt, more or less success- 
fully, to restore it by piecing together lines of isolated or for- 
gotten facts. Children's sports, popular sayings, absurd customs 
may be practically unimportant, but are not philosophically 
insignificant, bearing as they do on some of the most instructive 
phases of early culture. Ugly and cruel superstitions may prove 
to be relics of primitive barbarism, for in keeping up such Man 
is like Shakespeare's fox, 

" Who, ne'er so tame, so cherish'd, and lock'd up, 
Will have a wild trick of his ancestors." 



Occult Sciences — ]\Iagical powers attributed by higher to lower races — Magical 
processes based on Association of Ideas— Omens — Augury, etc, — Oneiro- 
mancy — Haruspication, Scapulimanny, Chiromancy, etc. — Cartomancy, etc. 
— Rhabdomancy, Dactyliomancy, Coscinomancy, etc. — ^Astrology — Intellec- 
tual conditions accounting for the persistence of Magic —Survival passes into 
Revival — Witchcraft, originating in savage culture, continues in barbaric 
civilization ; its decline in early mediaeval Europe followed by revival ; its 
practices and counter-practices belong to earlier culture — Spiritualism has its 
source in early stages of culture, in close connexion with witchcraft — Spirit- 
rapping and Spirit- writing — Rising in the air — Performances of tied mediums 
— Practical bearing of the study of SuiTival. 

In" examining the survival of opinions in the midst of con- 
ditions of society becoming gradually estranged from them, and 
tending at last to suppress them altogether, much may be learnt 
from the history of one of the most pernicious delusions that ever 
vexed mankind, the belief in Magic. Looking at Occult Science 
from this ethnographic point of view, I shall instance some of 
its branches as illustrating the course of intellectual culture. 
Its place in history is briefly this. ,It belongs in its main 
principle to the lowest known stages of civilization, and the 
lower races, who have not partaken largely of the education of 
the world, still maintain it in vigour. From this level it may 
be traced upward, much of the savage art holding its place sub- 
stantially unchanged, and many new practices being in course 
of time developed, while both the older and newer developments 
have lasted on more or less among modern cultured nations. 
But during the ages in which progressive races have been learn- 
ing to submit their opinions to closer and closer experimental 
tests, occult science hias been breaking down into the condition 


of a survival, in which state we mostly find it among our- 

The modern educated world, rejecting occult science as a 
contemptible superstition, has practically committed itself to 
the opinion tha.t magic belongs to a lower level of civilization. 
It is very instructive to find the soundness of this judgment 
undesignedly confirmed by nations whose education has not 
advanced far enough to destroy their belief in the craft itself. 
In some cases, indeed, the reputation of a race as sorcerers may 
depend on their actually putting forward supernatural preten- 
sions, or merely on their being isolated and mysterious people. 
It is thus with the Lavas of Birma, supposed to be the broken- 
clown remains of an ancient cultured race, and dreaded as man- 
tigers ;^ and with the Budas of Abyssinia, who are at once the 
smiths and potters, sorcerers and werewolves of their district.^ 
But the usual and suggestive state of things is that nations who 
believe with the sincerest terror in the reality of the magic art, 
at the same time cannot shut their eyes to the fact that it 
more essentially belongs to, and is more thoroughly at home 
among, races less civilized than themselves. The Malays of the 
Peninsula, who have adopted Mohammedan religion and civi- 
lization, have this idea of the lower tribes of the land, tribes 
more or less of their own race, but who have remained in their 
early savage condition. The Malays have enchanters of their 
own, but consider them inferior to the sorcerers or poyangs be- 
longing to the rude Mintira; to these they will resort for the 
cure of diseases and the working of misfortune and death to 
their enemies. It is, in fact, the best protection the Mintira 
have against their stronger Malay neighbours, that these are 
careful not to offend them for fear of their powers of magical 
revenge. The Jakuns, again, are a rude and wild race, whom 
the Malays despise as infidels and little higher than animals, 
but whom at the same time they fear extremely. To the Malay 
the Jakun seems a supernatural being, skilled in divination, 
sorcery, and fascination, able to do evil or good according to his 
pleasure, whose blessing will be followed hj the most fortunate 

* Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 119. 

2 'Life of Nath. Pearce,' ed. by J. J. Halls, vol. i. p. 2S6. 


success, and his curse by the most dreadful consequences ; he 
can turn towards the house of an enemy, at whatever distance, 
and beat two sticks together till that enemy will fall sick and 
die : he is skilled in herbal physic ; he has the power of charm- 
ing the fiercest wild beasts. Thus it is that the Malays, though 
they despise the Jakuns, refrain, in many circumstances, from 
ill-treating them.^ In India, in long-past ages, the dominant 
Aryans described the rude indigenes of the land by the epithets 
of "possessed of magical powers," "changing their shape at 
will." 2 To this day, Hindus settled in Chota-Nagpur and Sing- 
bhum firmly believe that the Mundas have powers of witchcraft, 
whereby they can transform themselves into tigers and other 
beasts of prey to devour their enemies, and can witch away the 
lives of man and beast ; it is to the wildest and most savage of 
the tribe that such powers are generally ascribed.^ In Southern 
India, again, we hear in past times of Hinduized Dravidians, 
the Sudras of Canara, living in fear of the daemoniacal powers 
of the slave-caste below them.^ In our own day, among Dravi- 
dian tribes of the Nilagiri district, the Todas and Badagas are 
in mortal dread of the Kurumbas, despised and wretched forest 
outcasts, but gifted, it is believed, with powers of destroying 
men and animals and property by witchcraft.^ Northern Europe 
brings the like contrast sharply into view. The Finns and 
Lapps, whose low Tatar barbarism was characterized by sorcery 
such as flourishes still among their Siberian kinsfolk, were 
accordingly objects of superstitious fear to their Scandinavian 
neighbours and oppressors. In the middle ages the name of 
Finn was, as it still remains among seafaring men, equivalent 
to that of sorcerer, while Lapland witches had a European 
celebrity as practitioners of the black art. Ages after the Finns 
had risen in the social scale, the Lapps retained much of their old 
half-savage habit of life, and with it naturally their witchcraft, 
so that even the magic-gifted Finns revered the occult powers 

* ' Journ. Ind. Archip.' voL i. p. 328 ; voL ii. p. 273; see vol. iv. p. 425. 
^ Muir, * Sanskrit Texts,' part ii. p. 435. 

3 Dalton, 'Kols,' in *Tr. Eth. Soc' voL vi. p. 6 ; see p. 16. 

* Jas. Gardner, 'Faiths of the World,' s. v. 'Exorcism.' 

5 Shortt, 'Tribes of Neilgherries,' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. vii. pp. 247, 277 ; Sir 
W. Elliot in 'Trans. Congress of Prehistoric Ai'chjeology, ' 1868, p. 253. 


of a people more barbarous than themselves. Eiihs writes thus 
early in the present century : " There are still sorcerers in Fin- 
land, but the skilfullest of them believe that the Lapps far 
excel them ; of a well-experienced magician they say ' That is 
quite a Lapp/ and they journey to Lapland for such know- 
ledge." ^ All this is of a piece with the survival of such ideas 
among the ignorant elsewhere in the civilized world. Many a 
white man in the West Indies and Africa dreads the incanta- 
tions of the Obi-man, and Europe ascribes powers of sorcery to 
despised outcast "races maudites," Gypsies and Cagots. To turn 
from nations to sects, the attitude of Protestants to Catholics 
in this matter is instructive. It was remarked in Scotland : 
"There is one opinion which many of them entertain, .... 
that a popish priest can cast out devils and cure madness, and 
that the Presbyterian clergy have no such power." So Bourne 
says of the Church of England clergy, that the vulgar think 
them no conjurors, and say none can lay spirits but popish 
priests.^ These accounts are not recent, but in Germany the 
same state of things appears to prevail still. Protestants get the 
aid of Catholic priests and monks to help them against witch- 
craft, to lay ghosts, consecrate herbs, and discover thieves ;^ thus 
with unconscious irony judging the relation of Rome toward 
modern civilization. 

The principal key to the understanding of Occult Science is 
to consider it as based on the Association of Ideas, a faculty 
which lies at the very foundation of human reason, but in no 
small degree of human unreason also. Man, as yet in a 
low intellectual condition, having come to associate in thought 
those things which he found by experience to be connected 
in fact, proceeded erroneously to invert this action, and to 
conclude that association in thought must involve similar 
connexion in reality. He thus attempted to discover, to 
foretell, and to cause events by means of processes which we 
can now see to have only an ideal significance. By a vast 
mass of evidence from savage, barbaric, and civilized life, 

1 F. Riihs, 'Finland,' p. 296 ; Bastian, 'Menscli.' vol. iii. p. 202. -^ 

' Brand, * Pop. Ant' vol. iii. pp. 81—3 ; see 313. 

3 Wuttke, 'Deutsche Volksaberglaube, ' p. 128 ; see 239. 


magic arts which have resulted from thus mistaking an ideal 
for a real connexion, may be clearly traced from the lower 
culture which they are of, to the higher culture which they 
are in.^ Such are the practices whereby a distant person is 
to be affected by acting on something closely associated with 
him — his property, clothes he has worn, and above all, cuttings 
of his hair and nails. Not only do savages high and low like the 
Australians and Polynesians, and barbarians like the nations of 
Guinea, live in deadly terror of this spiteful craft — not only have 
the Parsis their sacred ritual prescribed for burying their cut 
hair and nails, lest demons and sorcerers should do mischief with 
them, but the fear of leaving such clippings and parings about 
lest their former owner should be harmed through them, has 
by no means died out of European folklore, and the German 
peasant, during the days between his child's birth and baptism, 
objects to lend anything out of the house, lest witchcraft should 
be worked through it on the yet unconsecrated baby.^ As the 
negro fetish-man, when his patient does not come in person, 
can divine by means of his dirty cloth or cap instead,^ so the 
modern clairvoyant professes to feel sympathetically the sensa- 
tions of a distant person if communication be made through a 
lock of his hair or any object that has been in contact with 
him."^ The simple idea of joining two objects with a cord, 
taking for granted that this communication will establish con- 
nexion or carry influence, has been worked out in various ways 
in the world. In Australia, the native doctor fastens one end 
of a string to the ailing part of the patient's body, and by 
sucking at the other end pretends to draw out blood for his 
relief.^ In Orissa, the Jeypore witch lets down a ball of thread 

^ For an examination of numerous magical arts, mostly coming under this 
category, see * Early History of Mankind,' chaps, vi. and x. 

Stanbridge, *Abor. of Victoria,' in * Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. p. 299; Ellis, 
'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 364 ; J. L. Wilson, ' W. Africa,' p. 215 ; Spiegel, 'Avesta,' 
voL i. p, 124; Wuttke, 'Deutsche Volksaberglaube,' p. 195; general references 
in * Early Histoiy of Mankind,' p. 129. 

^ Burton, 'W. and "W. from West Africa,' p. 411. 

* W. Gregory, * Letters on Animal Magnetism,' p. 128. 

^ Eyre, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 361; Collins, 'New South Wales,' vol. i. 
pp. 561, 594. 


through her enemy's roof to reach his body, that by putting the 
other end in her own mouth she may suck his blood.^ When a 
reindeer is sacrificed at a sick Ostyak's tent-door, the patient 
holds in his hand a cord attached to the victim offered for his 
benefit.^ Greek history shows a similar idea, when the citizens 
of Ephesus carried a rope seven furlongs from their walls to 
the temple of Artemis, thus to place themselves under her 
safeguard against the'] attack of Croesus ; and in the yet more 
striking story of the Kylonians, who tied a cord to the statue 
of the goddess when they quitted the asylum, and clung to it 
for protection as they crossed unhallowed ground ; but by ill- 
fate the cord of safety broke and they were mercilessly put to 
death.^ And in our own day, Buddhist priests in solemn cere- 
mony put themselves in communication with a sacred relic, by 
each taking hold of a long thread fastened near it and around 
the temple.^ 

Magical arts in which the connexion is that of mere analogy 
or symbolism are endlessly numerous throughout the course of 
civilization. Their common theory may be readily made out 
from a few typical cases, and thence applied confidently to the 
general mass. The Australian will observe the track of an 
insect near a grave, to ascertain the direction where the sorcerer 
is to be found, by whose craft the man died.^ The Zulu may 
be seen chewing a bit of wood, in order, by this symbolic act, to 
soften the heart of the man he wants to buy oxen from, or of 
the woman he wants for a wife.^ The Obi-man of West Africa 
makes his packet of grave-dust, blood, and bones, that this 
suggestive representation of death may bring his enemy to the 
graved The Khond sets up the iron arrow of the War-god in a 
basket of rice, and judges from its standing upright that war 
must be kept up also, or from its falling that the quarrel may 
be let fall too ; and when he tortures human victims sacrificed 

1 Shortt, in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. vi. p. 278. 

2 Bastian, 'Mensch.' vol. iii. p. 117. 

3 See Grote, vol. iii. pp. 113, 351. 

* Hardy, 'Eastern Monachism,' p. 241. j 

5 Oldfield, in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 246. 

6 Grout, 'Zulu-land,' p. 134. 

7 See specimen and description in the Christy Museum. 


to the Earth-goddess, he rejoices to see them shed plentiful 
tears, which betoken copious showers to fall upon his land.^ 
These are fair examples of the symbolic magic of the lower 
races, and they are fully rivalled in superstitions which still 
hold their ground in Europe. With quaint simplicity, the 
German cottager declares that if a dog howls looking down- 
ward, it portends a death ; but if upward, then a recovery from 
sickness.^ Locks must be opened and bolts drawn in a dying 
man's house, that his soul may not be held fast.^ The Hessian 
lad thinks that he may escape the conscription by carrying a 
baby-girl's cap in his pocket — a symbolic way of repudiating 
manhood.^ Modern Servians, dancing and singing, lead about 
a little girl dressed in leaves and flowers, and pour bowls of 
water over her to make the rain come.^ Sailors becalmed will 
sometimes whistle for a wind ; but in other weather they hate 
whistling at sea, which raises a whistling gale.^ Fish, says the 
Cornishman, should be eaten from the tail towards the head, to 
bring the other fishes' heads towards the shore, for eating them 
the wrong way turns them from the coast.''' BLe who has cut 
himself should rub the knife with fat, and as it dries, the wound 
will heal ; this is a lingering survival from days when recipes 
for sympathetic ointment were to be found in the Pharma- 
copoeia.^ Fanciful as these notions are, it should be borne in 
mind that they come fairly under definite mental law, depend- 
ing as they do on a principle of ideal association, of which we 
can quite understand the mental action, though we deny its 
practical results. The clever Lord Chesterfield, too clever to 
understand folly, may again be cited to prove this. He relates 
in one of his letters that the king had been ill, and that people 
generally expected the illness to be fatal, because the oldest 

* Macphersoii, ' India,' pp. 130, 303. 
- Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' p. 31. 

^ R. Hunt, 'Pop. Rom. of W. of England,' 2nd ser. p. 165 ; Brand, 'Pop. 
Ant.' vol. ii. p. 231. 
•* Wuttke, p. 100. 
5 Grimm, * D. M.' p. 560. 
^ Brand, vol. iii. p. 240. 
" Hunt, ibid. p. 148. 
8 Wuttke, p. 165 ; Brand, vol. iii. p. 305. 


lion in the Tower, about the king's age, had just died. "So 
wild and capricious is the human mind," he exclaims, by way 
of comment. But indeed the thought was neither wild nor 
capricious, it was simply such an argument from analogy as the 
educated world has at length painfully learnt to be worthless ; 
but Avhich, it is not too much to declare, would to this day 
carry considerable weight to the minds of four-fifths of the 
human race. 

A glance at those magical arts w^hich have been systematized 
into pseudo-sciences, shows the same underlying principle. The 
art of taking omens from seeing and meeting animals, which 
includes augury, is familiar to such savages as the Tupis of 
Brazil^ and the Dayaks of Borneo,^ and extends upward through 
classic civilization. The Maoris may give a sample of the cha- 
racter of its rules : they hold it unlucky if an owl hoots during 
a consultation, but a council of war is encouraged by prospect 
of victory when a hawk flies overhead ; a flight of birds to the 
right of the war-sacrifice is propitious if the villages of the tribe 
are in that quarter, but if the omen is in the enemy's direction, 
the war will be given up.^ Compare these with the Tatar rules, 
and it is obvious that similar thoughts lie at the source of both. 
Here a certain little owl's cry is a sound of terror, although 
there is a white owl which is lucky ; but of all birds the white 
falcon is most prophetic, and the Kalmuk bows his thanks for 
the good omen when one flies by on the right, but seeing one 
on the left turns away his face and expects calamity.* So to 
the negro of Old Calabar, the cry of the great kingfisher bodes 
good or evil, according as it is heard on the right or left.^ 
Here we have the obvious symbolism of the right and left hand, 
the foreboding of ill from the owl's doleful note, and the sug- 
gestion of victory from the fierce swooping hawk, a thought 
which in old Europe made the bird of prey the warrior's omen 
of conquest. Meaning of the same kind appears in the 

^ Magalhaues de Gandavo, p. 125 ; D'Orbigny, vol. ii. p. 168. 

2 St, John, *Far East,' vol. i. p. 202 ; ' Joum. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii. p. 357. 

3 Yate, • New Zealand,' p. 90 ; Polack, vol. i. p. 248. 
"^ Klemm, * Cultur-Gesch.' vol. iii. p. 202. 

^ Burton, 'Wit and Wisdom from AVest Africa,' p. 381. 


' Angang,' the omens taken from meeting animals and people, 
especially on first going out in the morning, as when the 
ancient Slaves held meeting a sick man or an old woman to 
bode ill-luck. Any one who takes the trouble to go into this 
subject in detail, and to study the classic, medissval, and 
oriental codes of rules, will find that the principle of direct 
symbolism still accounts for a fair proportion of them, though 
the rest may have lost their early significance, or may have 
been originally due to some other reason, or may have been 
arbitrarily invented (as a considerable proportion of such devices 
must necessarily be) to fill up the gaps in the system. It is still 
plain to us why the omen of the crow should be different on the 
right or left hand, why a vulture should mean rapacity, a stork 
concord, a pelican piety, an ass labour, why tlie fierce conquering 
wolf should be a good omen, and the timid hare a bad one, why 
bees, types of an obedient nation, should be lucky to a king, 
while flies, returning however often they are driven off, should be 
signs of importunity and impudence.^ And as to the general 
principle that animals are ominous to those who meet them, the 
German peasant who says a flock of sheep is lucky but a herd 
of swine unlucky to meet, and the Cornish miner who turns 
away in horror when he meets an old woman or a rabbit on his 
way to the pit's mouth, are to this day keeping up relics of 
early savagery as genuine as any flint implement dug out of a 

The doctrine of dreams, attributed as they are by the lower 
and middle races to spiritual intercourse, belongs in so far 
rather to religion than to magic. But oneiromancy, the art of 
taking omens from dreams by non-natural interpretation, has 
its place here. Of the leading principle of such mystical expla- 
nation, no better types could be chosen than the details and 
interpretations of Joseph's dreams (Genesis xxxvii., xl., xli.), 
of the sheaves and the sun and moon and eleven stars, of the 
vine and the basket of meats, of the lean and fat kine, and the 
thin and full corn-ears. Oneiromancy, thus symbolically inter- 

^ See Cornelius Agrippa *De Occulta Philosophia,' i. 53 ; 'De Yanitate Scieiit.' 
37 ; Grimm, * D. M.' p. 1073; Hanusch, 'Slaw. Myth.' p. 285; Brand, vol. iii. 
pp. 184—227. 


preting the things seen in dreams, is not unknown to the lower 
races. A whole Australian tribe has been known to decamp 
because one of their number dreamt of a certain kind of owl, 
which dream the wise men declared to forebode an attack from 
a certain other tribe.^ The Kamchadals, people whose minds 
ran much on dreams, had special interpretations of some ; thus 
to dream of lice or dogs betokened a visit of Russian travellers, 
&c.^ The Zulus, experience having taught them the fallacy 
of expecting direct fulfilment of dreams, have in some cases 
tried to mend matters by rushing to the other extreme. If 
they dream of a sick man that he is dead, and they see the 
earth poured into the grave, and hear the funeral lamentation, 
and see all his things destroyed, then they say, " Because we 
have dreamt of his death he will not die." But if they di'eam of 
a. wedding-dance, it is a sign of a funeral.^ It is possible that the 
Zulus may have adopted these well-known maxims from Euro- 
peans. If not, they have worked out, by the same crooked logic 
that guided our own ancestors, the axiom that " dreams go by 
contraries." It could not be expected, in looking over the 
long lists of precepts of classic, oriental, and modern popular 
dream-interpretation, to detect the original sense of all their 
readings. Many must turn on allusions intelligible at the 
time, but now obscure. The Moslem dream-interpretation of 
eggs as concerning women, because of a saying of Mohammed 
about women being like an egg hidden in a nest, is an example 
which wall serve as well as a score to show how dream-rules 
may turn on far-fetched ideas, not to be recognized unless the 
key happens to have been preserved. Many rules must have 
been taken at random to fill up lists of omens, and of con- 
tingencies to match them. Why should a dream of roasting 
meat show the dreamer to be a backbiter, or laughter in sleep 
presage difficult circumstances, or a dream of playing on the 
clavicord the death of relatives ? But the other side of the 
matter, the still apparent nonsensical rationality of so many 
dream-omens, is much more remarkable. It can only be con- 

» Oldfield, in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 241. 

2 Steller, * Kamtschatka,' p. 279. 

^ Callaway, 'Religion of Araazulu,' pp. 236, 241. • 


s ered that the same symbolism that lay at the root of the 
Vi lole delusion, favoured the keeping up and new making of 
such rules as carried obvious meaning. Take the Moslem ideas 
that it is a. good omen to dream of something white or green, 
r.r of water, but bad to dream of black or red, or of fire ; that a 
palm-tree indicates an Arab, and a peacock a king ; that he who 
dreams of devouring the stars will live free at some great man's 
table. Take the classic rules as in the ' Oneirocritica ' of Arte- 
midorus, and pass on through the mediaeval treatises down to such 
a dream-dictionary as servant-maids still buy in penny chap-books 
at the fair, and it will be seen that the ancient rules still hold 
their places to a remarkable extent, while half the mass of pre- 
cepts still show their original mystic significance, mostly direct, 
but occasionally according to the rule of contraries. An offen- 
sive odour signifies annoyance ; to wash the hands denotes release 
from anxieties ; to embrace one's best beloved is very fortunate ; 
to have one's feet cut off prevents a journey ; to weep in sleep 
is a sign of joy ; he who dreams he hath lost a tooth shall lose 
a friend ; and he that dreams that a rib is taken out of his side 
shall ere long see the death of his wife ; to follow bees, betokens 
gain ; to be married signifies that some of your kinsfolk are 
dead; if one sees many fowls together, that shall be jealousy 
and chiding ; if a snake pursue him, let him be on his guard 
against evil women ; to dream of death, denotes happiness and 
long life ; to dream of swimming and wading in the water is 
good, so that the head be kept above water ; to dream of 
crossing a bridge, denotes you will leave a good situation to 
seek a better ; to dream you see a dragon is a sign that you 
shall see some great lord your master, or a magistrate.^ 

Haruspication belongs, among the lower races, especially to 
the Malays and Polynesians/ and to various Asiatic tribes.^ It 

^ Artemidorus, * Oneirocritica ;' Cockayne, ' Leech doms, 'etc., of Early England,' 
vol. iii. ; Seafield, 'Literature, etc., of Dreams ;' Brand, vol. iii. ; Halliwell, 
*Pop. Rhymes,' etc., p. 217, etc., etc. 

= St. John, 'Far East,' vol. i. pp. 74, 115; Ellis, * Polyn. Res.' vol. iv. p. 
150 ; Polack, * New Zealanders,' vol. i. p. 255. 

^ Georgi, * Reise im Russ. Reich,' vol. i. p. 281 ; Hooker, * Himalayan 
Journals,' vol. i. p. 135; 'As. Res.' vol. iii. p. 27; Latham, 'Descr. Eth.' 
vol. i. p. 61. 


is mentioned as practised in Peru under the Incas.^ Capt; i 
Burton's account from Central Africa perhaps fairly dispk/s 
its symbolic principle. He describes the mganga or sorcerer 
taking an ordeal by killing and splitting a fowl and inspecting 
its inside : if blackness or blemish appears about the wings, i 13 
denotes the treachery of children and kinsmen ; the backbone 
convicts the mother and grandmother; the tail shows that the 
criminal is the wife, &c." In ancient Rome, where the art held 
so great a place in public affairs, the same sort of interpretation 
was usual, as witness the omen of Augustus, where the livers of 
the victims were found folded, and the diviners prophesied him 
accordingly a doubled empire.^ Since then, haruspication has 
died out more completely than almost any magical rite, yet even 
now a characteristic relic of it may be noticed in Brandenburg ; 
when a pig is killed and the spleen is found turned over, 
there wall be another overthrow, namely a death in the family 
that year.^ With haruspication may be classed the art of 
divining by bones, as where North American Indians would put 
in the fire a certain flat bone of a porcupine, and judge from its 
colour if the porcupine-hunt would be successful.^ The prin- 
cipal art of this kind is divination by a shoulder-blade, techni- 
cally called scapulimancy or omoplatoscopy. This is especially 
found in vogue in Tartary, where it is ancient, and whence it 
may have spread into all other countries where we hear of it. 
Its simple symbolism is well shown in the elaborate account 
with diagrams given by Pallas. The shoulder-blade is put on 
the fire till it cracks in various directions, and then a long split 
lengthways is reckoned as the " way of life," while cross-cracks 
on the right and left stand for different kinds and degrees of 
good and evil fortune ; or if the omen is only taken as to some 
special event, then lengthwise splits mean going on well, but 
crosswise ones stand for hindrance, white marks portend much 
snow, black ones a mild winter, &c.^ To find this quaint art 

^ Cieza de Leon, p. 289 ; Rivero and Tsclmdi, 'Peru,' p. 183. 

2 Burton, 'Central Afr.' vol. ii. p. 32 ; Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 417, 518. 

^ Plin. xi. 73. See Cic. de Divinatione, ii. 12. 

* Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,' p. 32. 

* Le Jeune, 'Nouvelle France,' voL i. p. 90. 

^ Klemm, ' Cultur-Gesch.* vol. iii. pp. 109, 199 ; voL iv. p. 221 ; Rubruquis, 


lasting on into modern times in Europe, we can hardly go to a 
better place than our own country ; a proper English term 
for it is " reading the speal-bone " {speal = espaule). In Ire- 
land, Camden describes the looking through the blade-bone of 
a sheep, to find a dark spot which foretells a death, and 
Drayton thus commemorates the art in his Polyolbion : — 

** By th' shoulder of a ram from off the ^ight side par'd, 
Which usually they boile, the spade-hone being bar'd, 
Which when the wizard takes, and gazing therupon 
Things long to come foreshowes, as things done long agone." ^ 

Chiromancy, or palmistry, seems much like this, though it is 
also mixed up with astrology. It flourished in ancient Greece 
and Italy as it still does in India, where to say, " It is written 
on the palms of my hands," is a usual way of expressing a 
sense of inevitable fate. Chiromancy traces in the markings of 
the palm a line of fortune and a line of life, finds proof of 
melancholy in the intersections on the saturnine mount, 
presages sorrow and death from black spots in. the finger- 
nails, and at last, having exhausted the powers of this childish 
symbolism, it completes its system by details of which the 
absurdity is no longer relieved by even an ideal sense. The 
art has its modern votaries not merely among Gypsy fortune- 
tellers, but in what is called " good society." ^ 

It may again and again thus be noticed in magic arts, that 
the association of ideas is obvious up to a certain point. Thus, 
when the New Zealand sorcerer took omens by the way his divin- 
ing sticks (guided by spirits) fell, he quite naturally said it was a 
good omen if the stick representing his own tribe fell on top of 
that representing the enemy, and vice versa. Zulu diviners still 
work a similar process with their magical pieces of stick, which 
rise to say yes and fall to say no, jump upon the head or 
stomach or other affected part of the patient's body to show 

in Pinkerton, vol. vii, p. 65 ; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 1067 ; R. F. Burton, 'Sindh,' 
p. 189 ; M. A. Walker, 'Macedonia,' p. 169. 

^ Brand, vol. iii. p. 339 ; Forbes Leslie, vol. ii. p. 491. 

^ Maury, 'Magie, etc.,' p. 74; Brand, vol. iii. p. 348, etc. See figure in 
Cornelius Agrippa, 'De Occult. Philosoph.' ii. 27. 

VOL. I. I 


where his complaint is, and lie pointing towards the house of 
the doctor who can cure him. So likewise, where a similar 
device was practised ages ago in the Old World, the responses 
were taken from staves which (by the operation of dsemons) fell 
backward or forward, to the right or left.^ But when processes 
of this kind are developed to complexity, the system has, of 
course, to be completed by more arbitrary arrangements. This 
is well shown in one of the divinatory arts mentioned in the 
last chapter for their connexion with games of chance. In 
cartomancy, the art of fortune-telling with packs of cards, there 
is a sort of nonsensical sense in such rules as that two queens 
mean friendship and four mean chattering, or that the knave 
of hearts prophesies a brave young man who will come into the 
family to be useful, unless his purpose be reversed by his card 
being upside down. But of course the pack can only furnish a 
limited number of such comparatively rational interpretations, 
and the rest must be left to such arbitrary fancy as that the 
seven of diamonds means a prize in the lottery, and the ten of 
the same suit an unexpected journey.^ 

A remarkable group of divining instruments illustrates ano- 
ther principle. In South-east Asia, the Sgau Karens, at funeral 
feasts, hang a bangle or metal ring by a thread over a brass 
basin, which the relatives of the dead approach in succession 
and strike on the edge with a bit of bamboo ; when the one who 
was most beloved touches the basin, the dead man's spirit re- 
sponds by twisting and stretching the string till it breaks and 
the ring falls into the cup, or at least till it rings against it.^ 
Nearer Central Asia, in the north-east corner of India, 
among the Bodo and Dhimal, the professional exorcist has 
to find out what deity has entered into a patient's body to 
punish him for some impiety by an attack of illness ; this 
he discovers by setting thirteen leaves round him on the 

* E. Taylor, 'JSTew Zealand,' p. 205 ; Shortland, p. 139 ; Callaway, 'Religion 
of Amazulu,' p. 330, etc. ; Theophylact. in Brand, vol.. iii. p. 332. Compare 
mentions of similar devices ; Herodot. iv. 67 (Scythia) ; Burton, * Central 
Africa,' vol. ii. p. 350. 

2 Migne's * Die. des Sc. Occ' 

3 Mason, 'Karens,' in 'Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1865, part ii. p. 200; Bas- 
tian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 146. 


ground to represent the gods, and then holdmg a pendukim 
attached to his thumb by a strmg, till the god in question is 
persuaded by invocation to declare himself, making the pendu- 
lum swing towards his representative leaf.^ These mystic arts 
(not to go into the question how these tribes came to use them) 
are rude forms of the classical dactylic mancy, of which so 
curious an account is given in the trial of the conspirators 
Patricius and Hilarius, who worked it to find out who was to 
supplant the emperor Yalens. A round table was marked at 
the edge with the letters of the alphabet, and with prayers and 
mystic ceremonies a ring was held suspended over it by a 
thread, and by swinging or stopping towards certain letters 
gave the responsive words of the oracle.^ Dactyliomancy has 
dwindled in Europe to the art of finding out what o'clock it is 
by holding a ring hanging inside a tumbler by a thread, till, 
without conscious aid by the operator, it begins to swing and 
strikes the hour. Father Schott, in his ' Physica Curiosa ' 
(1662), refrains with commendable caution from ascribing this 
phenomenon universally to dsemoniac influence. It survives 
among ourselves in child's play, and though we are "no con- 
jurors," we may learn something from the little instrument, 
which remarkably displays the effects of insensible movement. 
The operator really gives slight impulses till they accumulate 
to a considerable vibration, as in ringing a church-bell by very 
gentle pulls exactly timed. That he does, though unconsciously, 
cause and direct the swings, may be shown by an attempt to 
work the instrument with the operator's eyes shut, which will 
be found to fail, the directing power being lost. The action of 
the famous divining-rod with its curiously versatile sensibility 
to water, ore, treasure, and thieves, seems to belong partly to 
trickery by professional Dousterswivels, and partly to more or 
less conscious direction by honester operators. It is still in use 
on the Continent, and in some places they are apt to hide it in 
a baby's clothes, and so get it baptized for greater efficiency.^ 

1 Hodgson, 'Abor. of India,' p. 170. See Macpherson, p. 106 (Khonds). 
- Ammian. Marcellin. xxix. 1. 

^ Chevxeul, ' De la Baguette Divinatoire, du Pendule dit Explorateur, et des 

I 2 


To conclude this group of divinatory instruments, chance or the 
operator's direction may determine the action of one of the 
most familiar of classic and 'mediaeval ordeals, the so-called 
coscinomancy, or, as it is described in Hudibras, " th' oracle of 
sieve and shears, that turns as certain as the spheres." The 
sieve was held hanging by a thread, or by the points of a pair 
of shears stuck into its rim, and it would turn, or swing, or fall, 
at the mention of a thief's name, and give similar signs for 
other purposes. Of this ancient rite, the Christian ordeal of 
the Bible and key, still in frequent use, is a variation : the 
proper way to detect a thief by this is to read the 50th Psalm 
to the apparatus, and when it hears the verse, " When thou 
sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him," it will turn 
to the culprit.^ 

Count de Maistre, with his usual faculty of taking an argu- 
ment up at the wrong end, tells us that judicial astrology no 
doubt hangs to truths of the first order, which have been taken 
from us as useless or dangerous, or which we cannot recognize 
under their new forms.^ A sober examination of the subject 
may rather justify the contrary opinion, that it is on an error 
of the first order that astrology depends, the error of mistaking 
ideal analogy for real connexion. Astrology, in the immensity 
of its delusive influence on mankind, and by the comparatively 
modern period to which it remained an honoured branch of 
philosophy, may claim the highest rank among the occult 
sciences. It scarcely belongs to very low levels of civilization, 
although one of its fundamental conceptions, that of the souls 
or animating intelligences of the celestial bodies, is rooted in 
the depths of savage life. Yet the following Maori specimen of 
astrological reasoning is as real an argument as could be found 
in Paracelsus or Agrippa, nor is there reason to doubt its being 
home-made. When the siege of a New Zealand pa is going on, 
if Venus is near the moon, the natives naturally imagine the 

Tables Tournantes,' Paris, 1854 ; Brand, vol. iii. p. 332; Grimm. *D. M.' p. 
926 ; Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' p. 94. 

^ Cornelius Agrippa, * De Speciebus Magise,' xxi. ; Brand, vol. iii. p. 351 ; 
Grimm, ' D. M.'p. 1062. 

* De Maistre, 'Soirees de St. Petersbourg, ' vol. ii. p. 212. 


two as enemy and fortress ; if the planet is above, the foe will 
have the upper hand ; but if below, then the men of the soil 
will be able to defend themselves.^ Though the early history 
of astrology is obscure, its great development and elaborate 
systematization were undoubtedly the work of civilized nations 
of the ancient and mediaeval world. As might be well sup- 
posed, a great part of its precepts have lost their intelligible 
sense, or never had any, but the origin of many others is still 
evident. To a considerable extent they rest on direct sym- 
bolism. Such are the rules which connect the sun with gold, 
with the heliotrope and pseony, with the cock which heralds 
day, with magnanimous animals, such as the lion and bull ; and 
the moon with silver, and the changing chamseleon, and the 
palm-tree, which was considered to send out a monthly shoot. 
Direct symbolism is plain in that main principle of the calcula- 
tion of nativities, the notion of the "ascendant" in the horo- 
scope, which reckons the part of the heavens rising in the east at 
the moment of a child's birth as being connected with the child 
itself, and prophetic of its future life.^ It is an old story, that 
when two brothers were once taken ill together, Hippokrates 
the physician concluded from the coincidence that they were 
twins, but Poseidonios the astrologer considered rather that 
they were born under the same constellation : we may add, that 
either argument would be thought reasonable by a savage. One 
of the most instructive astrological doctrines which has kept its 
place in modern popular philosophy, is that of the sympathy of 
growing and declining nature with the waxing and waning 
moon. Among classical precepts are these : to set eggs under 
the hen at new moon, but to root up trees when the moon is on 
the wane, and after midday. The Lithuanian precept to wean 
boys on a waxing, but girls on a waning moon, no doubt to 
make the boys sturdy and the girls slim and delicate, is a fair 
match for the Orkney islanders' objection to marrying except 
with a growing moon, while some even wish for a flowing tide. 
The following lines, from Tusser's 'Five Hundred Points of 

1 Shortlaud, 'Trads., etc. of New Zealand,' p. 138. 

2 See Cicero De Div. i. ; Lucian. De Astrolog. ; Cornelius 'Agrippa, * De 
Occulta Philosophia ; ' Brand, vol. iii. 


Husbandry,' show neatly in a single case the two contrary lunar 
influences : — 

** Sowe peason and beans in the wane of the moone 
W^ho soweth them sooner, he soweth too soone : 
That they, with the planet, may rest and rise, 
And flourish with bearing, most plentiful wise." ^ 

The notion that the weather changes with the moon's quarter- 
ings is still held with great vigour in England. The meteoro- 
logists, with all their eagerness to catch at any rule which at all 
answers to facts, quite repudiate this one, which indeed appears 
to be simply a maxim belonging to popular astrology. Just as 
the growth and dwindling of plants became associated with the 
moon's wax and wane, so changes of weather became associated 
with changes of the moon, while, by astrologers' logic, it did 
not matter whether the moon's change were real, at new and 
full, or imaginary, at the intermediate quarters. That educated 
people to whom exact weather records are accessible should still 
find satisfaction in the fanciful lunar rule, is an interesting case 
of intellectual survival. 

In such cases as these, the astrologer has at any rate a real 
analogy, deceptive though it be, to base his rule upon. But 
most of his pseudo-science seems to rest on even weaker and 
more arbitrary analogies, not of things, but of names. Names 
of stars and constellations, of signs denoting regions of the sky 
and periods of days and years, no matter how arbitrarily given, 
are materials which the astrologer can work upon, and bring 
into ideal connexion with mundane events. That astronomers 
should have divided the sun's course into imaginary signs of the 
zodiac, was enough to originate astrological jules that these 
celestial signs have an actual effect on real earthly rams, 
bulls, crabs, lions, virgins. A child born under the sign of the 
Lion will be courageous ; but one born under the Crab will 
not go forward well in life ; one born under the Waterman is 
likely to be drowned, and so forth. Towards 1524, Europe was 
awaiting in an agony of prayerful terror the second deluge, 

1 Plin. xvi. 75; xviii. 75 ; Grimm, ' D. M.' p. 676 ; Brand, voL ii. p. 169 ; 
vol. iii. p. 144. 


prophesied for February in that year. As the fatal month 
drew nigh, dwellers by the waterside moved in crowds to the 
hills, some provided boats to save them, and the President 
Aurial, at Toulouse, built himself a Noah's Ark. It was the 
great astrologer Stoefler (the originator, it is said, of the 
weather-prophecies in our almanacks), who foretold this cata- 
clysm, and his argument has the advantage of being still 
perfectly intelligible — at the date in question, three planets 
would be together in the aqueous sign of Pisces. Again, 
simply because astronomers chose to distribute among the 
planets the names of certain deities, the planets thereby ac- 
quired the characters of their divine namesakes. Thus it was 
that the planet Venus became connected with love. Mars with 
war, Jupiter (whose % in altered shape still heads our physi- 
cians' prescriptions), with power and 'joviality.' Throughout 
the East, astrology remains a science in full esteem. The 
condition of mediaeval Europe may still be perfectly realized by 
the traveller in Persia, where the Shah waits for days outside 
the walls of his capital till the constellations allow him to enter, 
and where on the days appointed by the stars for letting blood, 
it literally flows in streams from the barbers' shops into the 
street. Professor Wuttke declares, that there are many districts 
in Germany where the child's horoscope is still regularly kept 
with the baptismal certificate in the family chest. We scarcely 
reach this pitch of conservatism in England, but I happen 
myself to live within a mile of an astrologer, and I lately saw 
a grave paper on nativities, offered in all good faith to the 
British Association. The piles of ' Zadkiel's Almanack ' in the 
booksellers' windows in country towns about Christmas, are a 
symptom how much yet remains to be done in popular education. 
As a specimen at once of the survival and of the meaning of 
astrologic reasoning, I cannot do better than quote a passage 
from a book published in London in 1861, and entitled, ' The 
Hand-Book of Astrology, by Zadkiel Tao-Sze.' At page 72 of 
his first volume, the astrologer relates as follows : " The Map of 
the heavens given at page 45 was drawn on the occasion of a 
young lady having been arrested on a charge of the murder of 
her infant brother. Having read in a newspaper, at twenty-four 


minutes past noon on the 23rd July, 18G0, that Miss C. K. had 
been arrested on a charge of the murder of her young brother, 
the author felt desirous to ascertain whether she were guilty or 
not, and drew the map accordingly. Finding the moon in the 
twelfth house, she clearly signifies the prisoner. The moon is 
in a moveable sign, and moves in the twenty-four hours, 
14° 17'. She is, therefore, swift in motion. These things in- 
dicated that the prisoner would be very speedily released. 
Then we find a moveable sign in the cusp of the twelfth, and its 
ruler, ?, in a moveable sign, a further indication of speedy 
release. Hence it was judged and declared to many friends 
that the prisoner would be immediately released, which was the 
fact. We looked to see whether the prisoner were guilty of 
the deed or not, and finding the Moon in Libra, a humane 
sign, and having just past the ^ aspect of the Sun and %, both 
being on the M. C. we felt assured that she was a humane, feel- 
ing, and honourable girl, and that it was quite impossible she 
could be guilty of any such atrocity. We declared her to be 
perfectly innocent, and as the Moon was so well aspected from 
the tenth house, we declared that her honour would be very 
soon perfectly established." Had the astrologer waited a few 
months longer, to have read the confession of the miserable 
Constance Kent, he would perhaps have put a different 
sense on his moveable signs, just balances, and sunny and 
jovial aspects. Nor would this be a difficult task, for these 
fancies lend themselves to endless variety of new interpretation. 
And on such fancies and such interpretations, the great science 
of the stars has from first to last been based. 

Looking at the details here selected as fair samples of sym- 
bolic magic, we may well ask the question, is there in the whole 
monstrous farrago no truth or value whatever ? It appears 
that there is practically none, and that the world has been en- 
thralled for ages by a blind belief in processes wholly irrelevant 
to their supposed results, and which might as well have been 
taken just the opposite way. Pliny justly saw in magic a study 
worthy of his especial attention, " for the very reason that, being 
the most fraudulent of arts, it had prevailed throughout the 
world and through so many ages" (eo ipso quod fraudulentissima 


artium plurimiim in toto terrariim orbe plurimisque seculis 
valuit). If it be asked how such a system could have held its 
ground, not merely in independence but in defiance of its own 
facts, a fair answer does not seem hard to give. In the first 
place, it must be borne in mind that occult science has not 
existed entirely in its own strength. Futile as its arts may be, 
they are associated in practice with other proceedings by no 
means futile. What are passed off as sacred omens, are often 
really the cunning man's shrewd guesses at the past and future. 
Divination serves to the sorcerer as a mask for real inquest, as 
when the ordeal gives him invaluable opportunity of examining 
the guilty, whose trembling hands and equivocating speech 
betray at once their secret and their utter belief in his power 
of discerning it. Prophecy tends to fulfil itself, as where the 
magician, by putting into a victim's mind the belief that fatal 
arts have been practised against him, can slay him with this 
idea as with a material weapon. Often priest as well as magi- 
cian, he has the whole power of religion at his back ; often a 
man in power, always an unscrupulous intriguer, he can work 
witchcraft and statecraft together, and make his left hand help 
his right. Often a doctor, he can aid his omens of life or death 
with remedy or poison, while what we still call "conjuror's 
tricks" of sleight of hand, have done much to keep up his super- 
natural prestige. From the earliest known stages of civilization, 
professional magicians have existed, who live by their craft, and 
keep it alive. It has been said, that if somebody had endowed 
lecturers to teach that two sides of a triangle are together 
equal to the third, the doctrine would have a respectable follow- 
ing among ourselves. At any rate, magic, with an influential 
profession interested in keeping it in credit and power, did not 
depend for its existence on mere evidence. 

And in the second place, as to this evidence. Magic has not 
its origin in fraud, and seems seldom practised as an utter 
imposture. The sorcerer generally learns his time-honoured 
profession in good faith, and retains his belief in it more or less 
from first to last ; at once dupe and cheat, he combines the 
energy of a believer with the cunning of a hypocrite. Had occult 
science been simply framed for purposes of deception, mere 


nonsense would have answered the purpose, whereas, what we 
find is an elaborate and systematic pseudo-science. It is, in 
fact, a sincere but fallacious system of philosophy, evolved by 
the human intellect by processes still in great measure intel- 
ligible to our own minds, and it had thus an original standing- 
ground in the w^orld. And though the evidence of fact was 
dead against it, it was but lately and gradually that this 
evidence was brought fatally to bear. A general survey of the 
practical working of the system may be made somewhat thus. 
A large proportion of successful cases belong to natural means 
disguised as magic. Also, a certain proportion of cases must 
succeed by mere chance. By far the larger proportion, how- 
ever, are what we should call failures ; but it is a part of the 
magician's profession to keep these from counting, and this he 
does with extraordinary resource of rhetorical shift and brazen 
impudence. He deals in ambiguous phrases, which give him 
three or four chances for one. He knows perfectly how to im- 
pose difficult conditions, and to lay the blame of failure on their 
neglect. If you wish to make gold, the alchemist in Central 
Asia has a recipe at your service, only, to use it, you must 
abstain three days from thinking of apes ; just as our English 
folk lore says, that if one of your eyelashes comes out, and you 
put it on your thumb, you will get anything you wish for, if 
you can only avoid thinking of foxes' tails at the fatal moment. 
Again, if the wrong thing happens, the wizard has at least a 
reason why. Has a daughter been born when he promised a 
son, then it is some hostile practitioner who has turned the boy 
into a girl ; does a tempest come just when he is making fine 
weather, then he calmly demands a larger fee for stronger 
ceremonies, assuring his clients that they may thank him as it is, 
for how much worse it would have been had he not done what 
he did. And even setting aside all this accessory trickery, if 
we look at honest but unscientific people practising occult 
science in good faith, and face to face with facts, we shall see 
that the failures which condemn it in our eyes carry com- 
paratively little weight in theirs. Part escape under the 
elastic pretext of a "little more or less," as the loser in the 
lottery consoles himself that his lucky number came within two 


of a prize, or the moon-observer points out triumphantly that 
a change of weather has come within two or three days before 
or after a quarter ; so that his definition of near a moon's 
quarter appHes to four or six days out of every seven. Part 
escape through incapacity to appreciate negative evidence, 
which allows one success to outweigh half-a-dozen failures. 
How few there are even among the educated classes now, who 
have taken in the drift of that memorable passage in the begin- 
ning of the 'Novum Organum :' — ''The human understanding, 
when any proposition has been once laid down (either from 
general admission and belief, or from the pleasure it affords), 
forces everything else to add fresh support and confirmation ; 
and although most cogent and abundant instances may exist to 
the contrary, yet either does not observe or despises them, or 
gets rid of and rejects them by some distinction, with violent 
and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of 
its first conclusions. It was well answered by him who was 
shown in a temple the votive tablets suspended by such as had 
escaped the peril of shipwreck, and was pressed as to whether 
he would then recognize the power of the gods, by an inquiry, 
' But where are the portraits of those who have perished in 
spite of their vows ?' "^ 

On the whole, the survival of symbolic magic through the 
middle ages and into our own times is an unsatisfactory, but 
not a mysterious fact. A once-established opinion, however 
delusive, can hold its own from age to age, for belief can 
propagate itself without reference to its reasonable origin, as 
plants are propagated from slips without fresh raising from the 

The history of survival, in cases like those of the folk lore 
and occult arts which we have been considering, has for the 
most part been a history of dwindling and decay. As men's 
minds change in progressing culture, old customs and opinions 
fade gradually in a new and uncongenial atmosphere, or pass 
into states more congruous with the new life around them. 

^ Bacon, 'Novum Organum.' The original story is that of Diagoras, in 
Cicero De Natura Deorum, iii. 37. 


But this is so far from being a law without exception, that a 
narrow view of history may often make it seem to be no law at 
all. For the stream of civilization winds and turns upon itself, 
and what seems the bright onward current of one age may in 
the next spin round in a whirling eddy, or spread into a dull 
and pestilential swamp. Studying with a wide view the course 
of human opinion, we may now and then trace on from the very 
turning-point the change from passive survival into active 
revival. Some well-known belief or custom has for centuries 
shown symptoms of decay, when we begin to see that the state 
of society, instead of stunting it, is favouring its new growth, 
and it bursts forth again with a vigour often as marvellous as it is 
imhealthy. And though the revival be not destined to hold on 
indefinitely, and though when opinion turns again its ruin may 
be more merciless than before, yet it may last for ages, make its 
way into the inmost constitution of society, and even become a 
very mark and characteristic of its time. 

Writers who desire to show that, with all our faults, we are 
wiser and better than our ancestors, dwell willingly on the 
history of witchcraft between the middle and modern ages. 
They can quote Martin Luther, apropos of the witches who 
spoil the farmers' butter and eggs, " I would have no pity on 
these witches ; I would burn them all." They can show the 
good Sir Matthew Hale [hanging witches in Suffolk, on the 
authority of scripture and the consenting wisdom of all nations ; 
and King James presiding at the torture of Dr. Fian for 
bringing a storm against the king's ship on its course from 
Denmark, by the aid of a fleet of witches in sieves, who carried 
out a christened cat to sea. In those dreadful days, to be a 
blear-eyed wizened cripple was to be worth twenty shillings to 
a witch-finder ; for a woman to have what this witch-finder was 
pleased to call the devil's mark on her body was presumption 
for judicial sentence of death ; and not to bleed or shed tears or 
sink in a pond was torture first, and then the stake. Reform 
of religion was no cure for the disease of men's minds, for in 
such things the Puritan was no worse than the Inquisitor, and 
no better. Papist and Protestant fought with one another, but 
both turned against that enemy of the human race, the hag 


who had sold herself to Satan to ride upon a broomstick, and to 
suck children's blood, and to be for life and death of all 
creatures the most wretched. But with new enlightenment 
there came in the very teeth of law and authority a change in 
European opinion. Toward the end of the seventeenth century 
the hideous superstition was breaking down among ourselves ; 
Richard Baxter, of the ' Saint's Rest,' strove with fanatic zeal 
to light again at home the witch-fires of New England, but he 
strove in vain. Year by year the persecution of witches became 
more hateful to the educated classes, and though it died hard, 
it died at last down to a vestige. In our days, when we read 
of a witch being burnt at Camargo in 1860, we point to Mexico 
as a country miserably in the rear of civilization. And if in 
England it still happens that village boors have to be tried at 
quarter-sessions for ill-using some poor old woman, who thej^ 
fancy has dried a cow or spoiled a turnip crop, we comment on 
the tenacity with which the rustic mind clings to exploded 
follies, and cry out for more schoolmasters. 

True as all this is, the ethnographer must go wider and 
deeper in his enquiry, to do his subject justice. The prevailing 
belief in witchcraft that sat like a nightmare on public opinion 
from the 13th to the 17th centuries, far from being itself a 
product of medievalism, was a revival from the remote days of 
primaeval history. The disease that broke out afresh in Europe 
had been chronic among the lower races for how many ages we 
cannot tell. Witchcraft is part and parcel of savage life. There 
are rude races of Australia and South America whose intense 
belief in it has led them to declare that if men were never 
bewitched, and never killed by violence, they would not die at 
all. Like the Australians, the Africans will enquire of their 
dead what sorcerer slew them by his wicked arts, and when 
they have satisfied themselves of this, blood must atone for 
blood. In West Africa, it has been boldly asserted that the 
belief in witchcraft costs more lives than the slave trade ever 
did. In East Afiica, Captain Burton, a traveller apt to draw 
his social sketches in a few sharp lines, remarks that what with 
slavery and what with black-magic, life is precarious among the 
Wakhutu, and '• no one, especially in old age, is safe from being 


burnt at a day's notice ; " and, travelling in the country of the 
Wazaramo, he tells us of meeting every few miles with heaps 
of ashes and charcoal, now and then such as seemed to have 
been a father and mother, with a little heap hard by that was a 
child.^ Even in districts of British India a state of mind ready 
to produce horrors like these is well known to exist, and to be 
kept down less by persuasion than by main force. From the level 
of savage life, we trace witchcraft surviving throughout the 
barbarian and early civilized world. It was existing in Europe 
in the centuries preceding the 10th, but with no especial 
prominence, while laws of Rothar and Charlemagne are actually 
directed against such as should put men or women to death on 
the charge of witchcraft. In the 11th century, ecclesiastical 
influence was discouraging the superstitious belief in sorcery. 
But now a period of reaction set in. The works of the monastic 
legend and miracle-mongers more and more encouraged a 
baneful credulity as to the supernatural. In the 13th century, 
when the spirit of religious persecution had begun to possess 
all Europe with a dark and cruel madness, the doctrine of 
witchcraft revived with all its barbaric vigour.^ That the guilt 
of thus bringing down Europe intellectually and morally to the 
level of negro Africa lies in the main upon the Roman Church, 
the bulls of Gregory IX. and Innocent VIII., and the records of 
the Holy Inquisition, are conclusive evidence to prove. To us 
here the main interest of mediaeval witchcraft lies in the extent 
and accuracy with which the theory of survival explains it. In 
the very details of the bald conventional accusations that were 
sworn against the witches, there may be traced tradition often 
hardly modified from barbarous and savage times. They 
raised storms by magic rites, they had charms against the hurt 
of weapons, they had their assemblies on wild heath and 
mountain-top, they could ride through the air on beasts and 
even turn into witch-cats and were-wolves themselves, they had 
familiar spirits, they had intercourse with incubi and succubi, 

^ Du Chaillu, * Ashango-Iand, ' pp. 428, 435; Burton, * Central Afr.,' vol. i. 
pp. 57, 113, 121. 

^ See Lecky, * Hist, of Rationalism,' vol. i. chap. i. ; Horst, ' Zauber-Biblio- 
thek ;' 'The Pope and the Council,' by 'Janus,' xvii. 


they conveyed thorns, pins, feathers, and such things into their 
victims' bodies, they caused disease by demoniacal possession, 
they could bewitch by spells and by the evil eye, by practising 
on images and symbols, on food and property. Now all this is 
sheer survival from prse -Christian ages, " in errore paganorum 
revolvitur," as Burchard of Worms said of the superstition of 
his time.^ Two of the most familiar devices used against the 
mediaeval witches may serve to show the place in civilization of 
the whole craft. The Oriental jinn are in such deadly terror of 
iron, that its very name is a charm against them ; and so in 
European folk lore iron drives away fairies and elves, and 
destroys their power. They are essentially, it seems, creatures 
belonging to the ancient Stone Age, and the new metal is 
hateful and hurtful to them. Now as to iron, witches are 
brought under the same category as elves and nightmares. 
Iron instruments keep them at bay, and especially iron horse- 
shoes have been chosen for this purpose, as half the stable doors 
in England still show.^ Again, one of the best known of 
English witch ordeals is the trial by '' fleeting " or swimming. 
Bound hand and foot, the accused was flung into deep water, 
to sink if innocent, and swim, if guilty, and in the latter case, 
as Hudibras has it, to be hanged only for not being drowned. 
King James, who seems to have had a notion of the real 
primitive meaning of this rite, says in his Dsemonology, "It 
appeares that God hath appointed for a supernatural signe of 
the monstrous impietie of witches, that the water shall refuse 
to receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them the 
sacred water of baptism," &c. Now, in early German history 
this same trial by water was well known, and its meaning 
recognized to be that the conscious element rejects the guilty 
(si aqua ilium veliit innoxium receperit — innoxii submerguntur 
aqua, culpabiles supernatant). Already in the 9th century the 

* See also Grimin, ' D. M.' ; Dasent, ' Introd. to Norse Tales ; ' Mauiy, 
*Magie, etc.,' ch. vii. 

2 Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 30 ; Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 435, 
465, 1056 ; Bastian, * Mensch.' vol. ii, pp. 265, 287 ; vol. iii, p. 204 ; D. Wilson, 
*Archselog. of Scotland,' p. 439; Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' pp. 15, 20, 
122, 220. 


laws were prohibiting this practice as a relic of superstition. 
Lastly, the same trial by water is recognized as one of the 
regular judicial ordeals in the Hindu Code of Manu ; if the 
water does not cause the accused to float when plunged into it, 
his oath is true. As this ancient Indian body of laws was 
itself no doubt comjoiled from materials of still earlier date, we 
may venture to take the correspondence of the water-ordeal 
among the European and Asiatic branches of the Aryan race 
as carrying back its origin to a period of remote antiquity.^ 

Let us hope that if the belief in present witchcraft, and the 
persecution necessarily ensuing upon such belief, once more 
come into prominence in the civilized world, they may appear 
in a milder shape than heretofore, and be kept down by 
stronger humanity and tolerance. But any one who fancies 
from their present disappearance that they have necessarily 
disappeared for ever, must have read history to little purpose, 
and has yet to learn that "revival in culture" is something 
more than an empty pedantic phrase. Our own time has 
revived a group of beliefs and practices which have their roots 
deep in the very stratum of early philosophy where witchcraft 
makes its first appearance. This group of beliefs and practices 
constitutes what is now commonly known as Spiritualism. 

Witchcraft and Spiritualism have existed for thousands of 
years in a closeness of union not unfairly typified in this verse 
from John Bale's 16th-century Interlude concerning Nature, 
which brings under one head the arts of bewitching vegetables 
and poultry, and causing supernatural movement of stools and 


*' Theyr wells I can up drye, 
Cause trees and herbes to dye, 
And slee all pulterye, 

Whereas men doth me move : 
I can make stoles to daunce 
And earthen pottes to praunce. 
That none shall them enhaunce, 
And do but cast my glove." 

^ Brand, 'Pop. Ant.' vol. iii. pp. 1 — 43; Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaulje,' p. 50 ; 
Grimm, 'Deutsche Rechtsalterthumer,' p. 923 ; Pictet, 'Origines Indo-Europ.' 
part ii. p. 459 ; Manu, viii., 114 — 5 ; see Plin. vii. 2. 


The same intellectual movement led to the decline of both 
witchcraft and spiritualism, till, early in the present century, 
men thought that both were dying or all but dead together. 
Now, however, not only are spiritualists to be counted by tens 
of thousands in America and England, but there are among 
them several men of distinguished mental power. I am well 
aware that the problem of the so-called " spirit-manifestations " 
is one to be discussed on its merits, in order to arrive at a 
distinct opinion how far it is concerned with facts insufficiently 
appreciated and explained by science, and how far with super- 
stition, delusion, and sheer knavery. Such investigation, 
pursued by careful observation in a scientific spirit, would 
seem apt to throw light on some most interesting psychological 
questions. But though it lies beyond my scope to examine the 
spiritualistic evidence for itself, the ethnographic view of the 
matter has, nevertheless, its value. This shows modern 
spiritualism to be in great measure a direct revival from the 
regions of savage philosophy and peasant folklore. It is not a 
simple question of the existence of certain phenomena of mind 
and matter. It is that, in connexion with these phenomena, 
a great philosophic-religious doctrine, flourishing in the lower 
culture but dwindling in the higher, has re-established itself in 
full vigour. The world is again swarming with intelligent and 
powerful disembodied spiritual beings, whose direct action on 
thought and matter is again confidently asserted as in those 
times and countries where physical science had not as yet so far 
succeeded in extruding these spirits and their influences from 
the system of nature. 

Apparitions have regained the place and meaning which they 
held from the level of the lower races to that of mediaeval 
Europe. The regular ghost-stories, in which spirits of the dead 
walk visibly and have intercourse with corporeal men, are now 
restored and cited with new examples as " glimpses of the 
night-side of nature," nor have these stories changed either 
their strength to those who are disposed to believe them, or 
their weakness to those who are not. As of old, men live now 
in habitual intercourse with the spirits of the dead. Necro- 
mancy is a religion, and the Chinese manes-worshipper may 

VOL. I. K 


see tlie outer barbarians come back, after a heretical interval of 
a few centuries, into sympathy with his time-honoured creed. 
As the sorcerers of barbarous tribes lie in bodily lethargy or 
sleep while their souls depart on distant journeys, so it is not 
uncommon in modern spiritualistic narratives for persons to be 
in an insensible state when their apparitions visit distant 
places, whence they bring back information, and where they 
communicate with the living. The spirits of the living as well 
as of the dead, the souls of Strauss and Carl Yogt as v/ell as of 
Augustine and Jerome, are summoned by mediums to distant 
spirit-circles. As Dr. Bastian remarks, if any celebrated man 
in Europe feels himself at some moment in a melancholy mood, 
he may console himself with the idea that his soul has been sent 
for to America, to assist at the " rough fixings " of some back- 
woodsman. Fifty years ago, Dr. Macculloch, in his ' Description 
of the Western Islands of Scotland,' wrote thus of the famous 
Highland second-sight : " In fact it has undergone the fate of 
witchcraft ; ceasing to be believed, it has ceased to exist." Yet 
a generation later he would have found it reinstated in a far 
larger range of society, and under far better circumstances of 
learning and material prosperity. Among the influences which 
have combined to bring about the spiritualistic renaissance, a 
prominent place may, I think, be given to the effect produced 
on the religious mind of Europe and America by the intensely 
animistic teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, in the last centurj^ 
The position of this remarkable visionary as to some of the par- 
ticular spiritualistic doctrines may be judged of by the following 
statements from ' The True Christian Keligion.' A man's spirit 
is his mind, which lives after death in complete human form, 
and this spirit may be conveyed from place to place while the 
body remains at rest, as on some occasions happened to Swe- 
denborg himself " 1 have conversed," he says, "with all my re- 
lations and friends, likewise with kings and princes, and men of 
learning, after their departure out of this life, and this now for 
twenty-seven years without interruption." And foreseeing that 
many who read his ' Memorable Relations,' will believe them to 
be fictions of imagination, he protests in truth they are not 
fictions, but were really seen and heard ; not seen and heard 


in any state of mind in sleep, but in a state of complete wake- 

J shall have to speak elsewhere of some of the doctrines of 
modern spirituaJism, where they seem to fall into their places 
in the study of Animism. Here, as a means of illustrating the 
relation of the newer to the older spiritualistic ideas, I propose 
to glance over the ethnography of two of the most popular 
means of communicating with the spirit-world, by rapping and 
writing, and two of the prominent spirit-manifestations, the 
feat of rising in the air, and the trick of the Davenport Brothers. 

The elf who goes knocking and routing about the house at 
night, and whose special German name is the " Poltergeist," is 
an old and familiar personage in European folklore.^ From of 
old, such unexplained noises have been ascribed to the agency 
of personal spirits, who more often than not are considered 
human souls. The modern Dayaks, Siamese, and Singhalese 
agree with the Esths as to such routing and rapping being- 
caused by spirits.^ Knockings may be considered mysterious 
but harmless, like those which in Swabia and Franconia are 
expected during Advent on the Anklopferleins-Nachte, or " Little 
Knockers' Nights." ^ Or they may be useful, as when the Welsli 
miners think that the " knockers " they hear underground are 
indicating the rich veins of lead and silver.^ Or they may be 
simply annoying, as when, in the ninth century, a malignant 
spirit infested a parish by knocking at the walls as if with a 
hammer, but being overcome with litanies and holy water, 
confessed itself to be the familiar of a certain wicked priest, and 
to have been in hiding under his cloak. Thus, in the seven- 
teenth century, the famous demon-drummer of Tedworth, com- 
memorated by Glanvil in the ' Saducismus Triumphatus,' 
thumped about the doors and the outside of the house, and 
" for an hour together it would beat Roundheads and Cuckolds, 

1 Swedenborg, 'The True Christian Religion.' London, 1855, Nos. 156, 15/, 
281, 851. 

- Grimm, * Deutsche Myth.' pp. 473, 481. 

3 St. John, 'Far East,' vol. i. p. 82 ; Bastian, ' Psychol ogie,' p. Ill ; ' OestL 
Asien,' vol. iii. pp. 232, 259, 288 ; Boeder, * Ehsten Aberglaube,' p. 147. 

"* Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 74. 

^ Brand, vol. ii. p. 486. 

K 2 


the Tat-too, and several other Points of War, as well as any 
Drummer." ^ But popular philosophy has mostly attached to 
such mysterious noises a foreboding of death, the knock being 
held as a signal or summons among spirits as among men. 
The Komans considered that the genius of death thus announced 
his coming. Modern folklore holds either that a knocking or 
rumbling in the floor is an omen of a death about to happen, or 
that dying persons themselves announce their dissolution to 
their friends in such strange sounds. The English rule takes 
in both cases : " Three loud and distinct knocks at the bed's 
head of a sick person, or at the bed's head or door of any of his 
relations, is an omen of his death." We happen to have a 
good means of testing the amount of actual correspondence be- 
tween omen and event necessary to establish these rules : the illo- 
gical people who were (and still are) able to discover a connexion 
between the ticking of the " death-watch " beetle and an en- 
suing death in the house, no doubt found it equally easy to 
give a prophetic interpretation to any other mysterious knocks.^ 
There is a story, dated 1534, of a ghost that answered questions 
by knocking in the Catholic Church of Orleans, and demanded 
the removal of the provost's Lutheran wife, who had been 
buried there ; but the affair proved to be a trick of a Franciscan 
friar.^ The system of working an alphabet by counted raps is 
a device familiar to prison-cells, where it has long been at once 
the despair of gaolers and an evidence of the diffusion of educa- 
tion even among the criminal classes. Thus when, in 1847, the 
celebrated rappings began to trouble the township of Arcadia in 
the State of New York, the Fox family of Rochester, founders, 
of the modern spiritual movement, had on the one hand only 
to revive the ancient prevalent belief in spirit-rappings, which 
had almost fallen into the limbo of discredited superstitions, 
while, on the other hand, the system of communication with the 
spirits was ready made to their hand. The system of a rap- 

* Glanvil, ' Saducismus Triumphatus, ' part ii. 

2 Brand, voL iii. pp. 225, 233 ; Grimm, pp. 801, 1089, 1141 ; Wuttke, pp. 38- 
9, 208 ; Shortland, ' Trads. of ISTew Zealand,' p. 137 (ominous ticking of insect,, 
doubtful whether idea native, or introduced by foreigners). 

3 Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 393. 


ping-alpliabet remains in full use, and numberless specimens of 
messages thus received are in print, possibly the longest being 
a novel, of which I can only give the title, ' Juanita, Nouvelle 
par une Chaise. A I'lmprimerie du Gouvernement, Basse Terre 
(Guadeloupe), 1853.' In the recorded communications, names, 
dates, etc. are often alleged to have been stated under re- 
markable circumstances, while the style of thought, language, 
and spelling fits with the intellectual quality of the medium. 
A large proportion of the communications being obviously false 
and silly, even when the "spirit" has announced itself in the 
name of some great statesman, moralist, or philosopher of the 
past, the theory has been adopted by spiritualists that foolish 
or lying spirits are apt to personate those of higher degree, and 
give messages in their names. 

Spirit-writing is of two kinds, according as it is done with or 
without a material instrument. The hrst kind is in full practice 
in China, where, like other rites of divination, it is probably 
ancient. It is called " descending of the pencil," and is espe- 
cially used by the literary classes. When a Chinese wishes to 
consult a god in this way, he sends for a professional medium. 
Before the image of the god are set candles and incense, and an 
offering of tea or mock money. In front of this, on another 
table, is placed an oblong tray of dry sand. The writing instru- 
ment is a V-shaped wooden handle, two or three feet long, with 
a wooden tooth fixed at its point. Two persons hold this instru- 
ment, each grasping one leg of it, and the point resting in the 
sand. Proper pra3^ers and charms induce the god to manifest 
his presence by a movement of the point in the sand, and thus 
the response is written, and there only remains the somewhat 
difficult and doubtful task of deciphering it. To what state of 
opinion this rite belongs may be judged from this : when the 
sacred apricot-tree is to be robbed of a branch to make the 
spirit-pen, an apologetic inscription is scratched upon the trunk.^ 
Notwithstanding theological differences between China and 
England, the art of spirit-writing is much the same in the two 

^ Doolittle, * Cliinese,' vol. ii. p. 112 ; Bastian, * Oestl. Asieii,' vol. iii. j>. 252; 
* Psychologie,' p. 159. 


countries. A kind of " planchette " seems to have been known 
in Europe in the seventeenth century.^ The instrument, which 
may now be bought at the toy-shops, is a heart-shaped board 
some seven inches long, resting on three supports, of which the 
two at the wide end are castors, and the third at the pointed 
end a pencil thrust through a hole in the board. The instru- 
ment is placed on a sheet of paper, and worked by two persons 
laying their fingers lightly on it, and waiting till, without con- 
scious effort of the operators, it moves and writes answers to 
questions. It is not everybody who has the faculty of spirit- 
writing, but a powerful medium will v/rite alone. Mediums 
sometimes consider themselves acted on by some power separate 
from themselves, in fact, possessed. 

Ecclesiastical history commemorates a miracle at the close of 
the Nicene Council. Two bishops, Chrysanthus and Mysonius, 
had died during its sitting, and the remaining crowd of Fathers 
brought the acts, signed by themselves, to the tomb, addressed 
the deceased bishops as if still alive, and left the document. 
Next day, returning, they found the two signatures added, to 
this effect : — " We, Chrysanthus and Mysonius, consenting with 
all the Fathers in the holy first and oecumenical Nicene Synod, 
although translated from the body, have also signed the volume 
with our own hands." ^ Such spirit-writing without material 
instrument has lately been renewed by the Baron de Gulden- 
stubbe. This writer confirms by new evidence the truth of the 
tradition of all peoples as to souls of the dead keeping up their 
connexion with their mortal remains, and haunting the places 
where they dwelt "during their terrestrial incarnation." Thus 
Francis I. manifests himself principally at Fontainebleau, while 
Louis XV. and Marie-Antoinette roam about the Trianons. 
Moreover, if pieces of blank paper be set out in suitable places, 
the spirits, enveloped in their ethereal bodies, will concentrate 
by their force of will electric currents on the paper, and so 
form wTitten characters. The Baron publishes, in his ' Pneu- 

^ Toelila, ' xiurifontiiia Ch3'mica,' cited by K. E. H. Mackenzie, in ' Spiritualist,' 
Mar. 15, 1870. 

2 Nicephor. Callist. Ecclesiast. Hist. viii. 23 ; Stanley, 'Eastern Church,' 

p. 172. 


matologie Positive/ a mass of fac-similes of spirit-writings thus 
obtained. Julius and Augustus Caesar give their names near 
their statues in the Louvre ; Juvenal produces a ludicrous 
attempt at a copy of verses ; Heloise at Pere-la-Chaise in- 
forms the world, in modern French, that Abelard and she 
are united and happy ; St. Paul writes himself €XC<'<^tos airo- 
aroXov ; and Hippokrates the physician (who spells himself 
Hippokrates) attended M. de Guldenstubbe at his lodgings in 
Paris, and gave him a signature which of itself cured a sharp 
attack of rheumatism in a few minutes.-^ 

The miracle of rising and floating in the air is one fully 
recognized in the literature of ancient India. The Buddhist 
saint of high ascetic rank attains the power called " perfec- 
tion " (irdhi), whereby he is able to rise in the air, as also 
to overturn the earth and stop the sun. Having this power, 
the saint exercises it by the mere determination of his will, 
his body becoming imponderous, as when a man in the common 
human state determines to leap, and leaps. Buddhist annals 
relate the performance of the miraculous suspension by Gau- 
tama himself, as well as by other saints, as, for example, his 
ancestor Maha Sammata, who could thus seat himself in the 
air without visible support. Even without this exalted faculty, 
it is considered possible to rise and move in the air by an 
effort of ecstatic joy (udwega priti). A remarkable mention 
of this feat, as said to be performed by the Indian Brahmans, 
occurs in the third-century biography of Apollonius of Tyana ; 
these Brahmans are described as going about in the air some 
two cubits from the ground, not for the sake of miracle (such 
ambition they despised), but for its being more suitable to solar 
rites.^ Foreign conjurors were professing to exhibit this miracle 
among the Greeks in the second century, as witness Lucian's 

^ ' Pneiirnatologie Positive et Experinientale ; La Realite des Esprits et le 
Plicnomene Merveillenx de leur Ecriture Directe denioiitrees,' par le Baron L. de 
Guldenstubbe. Paris, 1857. 

2 Hardy, 'Manual of P>udhisin,' pp. 38, 12a, 150; 'Eastern Monachism,' 
pp. 272, 285,382: Koppen, ' Pveli^t^ion des Buddlia,' vol. i. p. 412; Bastian, 
* Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 390 ; Philostrati Vita ApoUon. Tyan. iii. 15. See 
the mention among the Saadhs of India (I7th century), in Trant, in ' Missionary 
Register,* July, 1820, pp. 294—6. 


jocular account of the Hyperborean conjuror: — "Thou art 
joking, said Kleodemos, but I was once more incredulous than 
thou about such things, for I thought nothing could have per- 
suaded me to believe them ; but when I first saw that foreign 
barbarian flying — he was of the Hyperboreans, he said — I 
believed, and was overcome in spite of my resistance. For 
what was I to do, when I saw him carried through the air 
in daylight, and walking on the water, and passing leisurely 
and slowly through the fire ? What ! (said his interlocutor), 
you saw the Hyperborean man flying, and walking on the 
water? To be sure, said he, and he had on undressed leather 
brogues as they generally wear them ; but what's the use of 
talking of such trifles, considering what other manifestations 
he showed us, — sending loves, calling up daemons, raising the 
dead, and bringing in Hekate herself visibly, and drawing down 
the moon?" Kleodemos then goes on to relate how the con- 
juror first had his four minss down for sacrificial expenses, and 
then made a clay Cupid, and sent it flying through the air to 
fetch the girl whom Glaukias had fallen in love with, and 
presently, lo and behold, there she was knocking at the door ! " 
The interlocutor, however, comments in a sceptical vein on the 
narrative. It was scarce needful, he says, to have taken the 
trouble to send for the girl with clay, and a magician from 
the Hyperboreans, and even the moon, considering that for 
twenty drachmas she would have let herself be taken to the 
Hyperboreans themselves ; and she seems, moreover, to have 
been affected in quite an opposite way to spirits, for whereas 
these beings take flight if they hear the noise of brass or iron, 
Chrysis no sooner hears a chink of silver anywhere, but she 
comes toward the sound.-^ Another early instance of the belief 
in miraculous suspension is in the life of lamblichus, the great 
Neo-Platonist mystic. His disciples, says Eunapius, told him 
they had heard a report from his servants, that while in prayer 
to the gods he had been lifted more than ten cubits from the 
ground, his body and clothes changing to a beautiful golden 
colour, but after he ceased from pra3^er his body became as 

* Lucian. Philopseudes, 13. 


iDefore, and then he came down to the ground and returned to 
the society of his followers. They entreated him therefore, 
" Why, most divine teacher, why dost thou do such things 
hy thyself, and not let us partake of the more perfect wisdom ?" 
Then lamblichus, though not given to laughter, laughed at 
"this story, and said to them, " It was no fool who tricked you 
"thus, but the thing is not true." ^ 

After a while, the prodigy which the Platonist disclaimed, 
became a usual attribute of Christian saints. Thus St. Richard, 
then chancellor to St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, one 
•day softly opening the chapel door, to see why the archbishop 
did not come to dinner, saw him raised high in the air, with his 
knees bent and his arms stretched out ; falling gently to the 
ground, and seeing the chancellor, he complained that he had 
hindered him of great spiritual delight and comfort. So 
•St. Philip Neri used to be sometimes seen raised several yards 
from the ground during his rapturous devotions, with a bright 
light shining from his countenance. St. Ignatius Loyola is 
declared to have been raised about two feet under the same 
circumstances, and similar legends of devout ascetics being not 
only metaphorically but materially " raised above the earth " 
are told in the lives of St. Dominic, St. Dunstan, St. Theresa, 
and other less known saints. In the last century, Dom Calmet 
speaks of knowing a good monk ^vho rises sometimes from the 
ground and remains involuntarily suspended, especially on seeing 
some devotional image or hearing some devout prayer, and also 
a nun who has often seen herself raised in spite of herself to a 
certain distance from the earth. Unfortunately the great com- 
mentator does not specify any witnesses as having seen the monk 
and nun rise in the air. If they only thought themselves thus 
■elevated, their stories can only rank with that of the young man 
mentioned by De Maistre, who so often seemed to himself to 
float in the air, that he came to suspect that gravitation might 
not be natural to man.^ The hallucination of rising and floating 

^ Eunapius in Iambi. 

- Alban Butler, 'Lives of the Saints,* vol. i. p. 674; Calmet, 'Diss, sur les 
Apparitions, etc.,' chap. xxi. ; De Maistre, 'Soirees tie St. Pctersbourg, ' vol. ii. 


in the air is extremely commoD, and ascetics of all religions are 
especially liable to it. 

Among modern accounts of diabolic possession, however, the 
rising in the air is described as taking place not subjectively 
but objectively. In 1657, Richard Jones, a sprightly lad of 
twelve years old, living at Shepton Mallet, was bewitched by 
one Jane Brooks ; he was seen to rise in the air and pass over 
a garden wall some thirty yards, and at other times was found 
in a room with his hands flat against a beam at the top of the 
room, and his body two or three feet from the ground, nine 
people at a time seeing him in this latter position. Jane Brooks 
was accordingly condemned and executed at Chard Assizes in 
March, 1658. Richard, the Surrey demoniac of 1689, was 
hoisted up in the air and let down by Satan ; at the beginning 
of his fits he was, as it were, blown or snatched or borne up 
suddenly from his chair, as if he would have flown away, but 
that those who held him huno- to his arms and leofs and clunof 
about him. One account (not the oflicial medical one) of the 
demoniacal possessions at Morzine in Savoy, in 1864, relates 
that a patient was held suspended in the air by an invisible 
force during some seconds or minutes above the cemetery, in 
the presence of the archbishop.^ Modern spiritualists claim 
this power as possessed by certain distinguished living mediums^ 
who, indeed, profess to rival in sober fact the aerostatic miracles 
of Buddhist and Catholic legend. The force employed is of 
course considered to be that of the spirits. 

The performances of tied mediums have been specially repre- 
sented in England by the Davenport Brothers, who "are gene- 
rally recognized by Spiritualists as genuine media, and attribute 
the reverse opinion so deeply rooted in the public mind, to the 
untruthfulness of the London and many other newspapers." The 
performers were bound fast and shut by themselves in a dark 
cabinet, with musical instruments, whence not only musical 
sounds proceeded, but the coats of the mediums were taken off 
and replaced ; yet on inspection their bodies were discovered 

pp. 158, 175. See also Bastian, 'Mensch,' voL ii. p. 578; ' Psychologie,*' 
p. 159. 

^ Glanvil, 'SaducismiisTrmmphatus,' part ii. ; Bastian, 'Psychologie,' p, 161. 


still bound. The spirits would also release the bound mediums 
from their cords, however carefully tied about them.^ Now the 
idea of supernatural unbinding is very ancient, vouched for as it 
is by no less a personage than the crafty Odysseus himself, in 
his adventure on board the ship of the Thesprotians : 

" Me on the well-benched vessel, strongly bound, 
They leave, and snatch their meal upon the beach. 
But to my lielp the gods themselves unwound 
My cords with ease, though firmly twisted round." 

In early English chronicle, we find it in a story told by the 
Venerable Bede. A certain Imma was found all but dead on the 
field of battle, and taken prisoner, but when he began to recover 
and was put in bonds to prevent his escaping, no sooner did his 
binders leave him but he was loose again. The earl who owned 
him enquired whether he had about him such " loosening 
letters" (literas solutorias) as tales were told of; the man 
replied that he knew nought of such arts, yet when his OAvner 
sold him to another master, there was still no binding him. 
The received explanation of this strange power was emphati- 
cally a spiritual one. His brother had sought for his dead 
body, found one like him, buried it, and proceeded to say masses 
for his brother's soul, by the celebration whereof it came to pass 
that no one could fasten him, for he was out of bonds again 
directly. So they sent him home to Kent, whence he duly re- 
turned his ransom, and his story, it is related, stimulated many 
to devotion, who understood by it how salutary are masses to 
the redemption both of soul and body. Again, there prevailed 
in Scotland up to the last century this notion : when the 
lunatics who had been brought to St. Fillan's Pool to be 
bathed, were laid bound in the neighbouring church next night, 
if they were found loose in the morning, their recovery was 
expected, but if at dawn they were still bound, their cure was 

The untying trick performed among savages is so similar 
to that of our mountebanks, that when we find the North 

1 'Spiritualist,' Feb. 15, 1870. Oniu Abbott, ' Tlic Davenport Brothers,' IN'cw 
York, 1864. 


American Indian jugglers doing both this and the familiar 
trick of breathing fire, we are at a loss to judge whether they 
inherited these two feats from their savage ancestors, or borrowed 
them from tlie white men. The point is not, however, the mere 
performance of the untying trick, but its being attributed to 
the help of spiritual beings. This notion is thoroughly at 
home in savage culture. It comes out well in the Esquimaux 
accounts, which date from early in the 18th century. Cranz 
thus describes the Greenland angekok setting out on his mystic 
journey to heaven and hell. When he has drummed awhile 
and made all sorts of wondrous contortions, he is himself bound 
with a thong by one of his pupils, his head between his legs, 
and his hands behind his back. All the lamps in the house are 
put out, and the windows darkened, for no one must see him 
hold intercourse with his spirit, no one must move or even 
scratch his head, that the spirit may not be interfered with — or 
rather, says the missionary, that no one may catch him at his 
trickery, for there is no going up to heaven in broad daylight. 
At last, after strange noises have been heard, and a visit has 
been received or paid to the torngak or spirit, the magician re- 
appears unbound, but pale and excited, and gives an account of 
his adventures. Castren's account of the similar proceedings of 
the Siberian shamans is as follows : " They are practised," he 
says, "in all sorts of conjuring-tricks, by which they know how 
to dazzle the simple crowd, and inspire greater trust in them- 
selves. One of the most usual juggleries of the shamans in the 
Government of Tomsk consist of the following hocus-pocus, a 
wonder to the Russians as well as to the Samoieds. The shaman 
sits down on the wrong side of a dry reindeer-hide spread in 
the middle of the floor. There he lets himself be bound hand 
and foot by the assistants. The shutters are closed, and the 
shaman begins to invoke his ministering spirits. All at once 
there arises a mysterious ghostliness in the dark space. Voices 
are heard from different parts, both within and without the yurt, 
while on the dry reindeer-skin there is a rattling and drum- 
ming in regular time. Bears growl, snakes hiss, and squirrels 
leap about in the room. At last this uncanny work ceases, and 
the audience impatiently await the result of the game. A few 


moments pass in this expectation, and behold, the shaman 
walks in free and unbound from outside. No one doubts that 
it was the spirits who were drumming, growling, and hissing,, 
who released the shaman from his bonds, and who carried him 
by secret ways out of the yurt." ^ 

On the whole, the ethnography of spiritualism bears on prac- 
tical opinion somewhat in this manner. Beside the question of 
the absolute truth or falsity of the alleged possessions, manes- 
oracles, doubles, brain-waves, furniture movings, and the rest,, 
there remains the history of spiritualistic belief as a matter of 
opinion. Hereby it appears that the received spiritualistic theory 
of the alleged phenomena belongs to the philosophy of savages. 
As to such matters as apparitions or possessions this is obvious, 
and it holds in more extreme cases. Suppose a wild North 
American Indian looking on at a spirit-seance in London. As to 
the presence of disembodied spirits, manifesting themselves by 
raps, noises, voices, and other physical actions, the savage would 
be perfectly at home in the proceedings, for such things are part 
and parcel of his recognized system of nature. The part of the 
affair really strange to him would be the introduction of such 
arts as spelling and writing, which do belong to a different state 
of civilization from his. The issue raised by the comparison 
of savage, barbaric, and civilized spiritualism, is this : Do 
the Red Indian medicine-man, the Tatar necromancer, the 
High] and ghost-seer, and the Boston medium, share the posses- 
sion of belief and knowledge of the highest truth and import, 
which, nevertheless, the great intellectual movement of the last 
two centuries has simply thrown aside as worthless ? Is what 
we are habitually boasting of and calling new enlightenment, 
then, in fact a decay of knowledge ? If so, this is a truly re- 
markable case of degeneration, and the savages whom some 
ethnographers look on as degenerate from a higher civilization,, 
may turn on their accusers and charge them with having fallen 
from the hio^h level of savaore knowledsje. 

^ Homer. Odyss. xiv, 345 (Worslcy's Trans.); Beda, 'Historia Ecclesiastica,' 
iv. 22 ; J. Y. Simpson' in 'Proc. Ant. Soc. Scotlaml.' vol. iv. ; Keating', 'Long's 
Exp. to St. Peter's River,' vol. ii. p. ]59 ; Egede, ' Greenland,' p. 189 ; Craiiz, 
'Gronland,' p. 269; Gastrin, * Reiseberichte, ' 1845-9, p. 173. 


Throughout the whole of this varied investigation, whether 
of the dv/indhng survival of old culture, or of its bursting 
forth afresh in active revival, it may perhaps be complained 
that its illustrations should be so much among things worn 
out, worthless, frivolous, or even bad with downright harmful 
fol]y. It is in fact so, and I have taken up this course of argu- 
ment with full knowledge and intent. For, indeed, we have "in 
such enquiries continual reason to be thankful for fools. It 
is quite wonderful, even if we hardly go below the surface of 
the subject, to see how large a share stupidity and unpractical 
conservatism and dogged superstition have had in preserving 
for us traces of the history of our race, y\^hich practical utilita- 
rianism would have remorselessly sv/ept away. The savage is 
iirmly, obstinately conservative. No man appeals with more 
unhesitating confidence to the great precedent-makers of the 
past ; the v/isdom of his ancestors can control against the most 
obvious evidence his own opinions and actions. We listen with 
pity to the rude Indian as he maintains against civilized science 
and experience the authority of his rude forefathers. We smile 
at the Chinese appealing a^ "<inst modern innovation to the golden 
precepts of Confucius, whc in his time looked back with the 
same prostrate reverence to sages still more ancient, counselling 
his disciples to follow the seasons of Hea, to ride in the carriage 
of Yin, to wear the ceremonial cap of Chow. 

The nobler tendency of advancing culture, and above all of 
scientific culture, is to honour the dead without grovelling before 
them, to profit by the past without sacrificing the present to it. 
Yet even the modern civilized world has but half learnt this 
lesson, and an unprejudiced survey may lead us to judge how 
many of our ideas and customs exist rather by being old than 
by being good. Now in dealing with hurtful superstitions, the 
proof that they are things which it is the tendency of savagery 
to produce, and of higher culture to destroy, is accepted as a 
fair controversial argument. The mere historical position of a 
belief or custom may raise a presumption as to its origin which a presumption as to its authenticity. Dr. Middleton's 
celebrated Letter from Rome shows cases in point. He men- 
tions the image of Diana at Ephesus which fell from the sky. 


thereby damaging the pretensions of the Calabrian image of 
St. Dominic, which, according to pious tradition, was likewise 
brought down from heaven. He notices that as the blood of 
St. Januarius now melts miraculously without heat, so ages 
ago the priests of Gnatia tried to persuade Horace, on his road 
to Brundusium, that the frankincense in their temple had the 
habit of melting in like manner : 

"... dehinc Gnatia lymphis 
Iratis exstructa dedit risusque jocosque ; 
Diim flamma sine tliura liquescere limine sacro, 
Persuadere cupit : credat Juda3us Apella ; 
Non ego." ' 

Thus ethnographers, not without a certain grim satisfaction, 
may at times find means to make stupid and evil superstitions 
bear witness against themselves. 

Moreover^ in w^orking to gain an insight into the general laws 
of intellectual movement, there is practical gain in being able to 
study them rather among antiquarian relics of no intense modern 
interest, than among those seething problems of the day on whicli 
action has to be taken amid ferment and sharp strife. Should 
some moralist or politician speak contemptuously of the vanity 
of studying matters without practical moment, it will generally 
be found that his own mode of treatment will consist in partizan 
diatribes on the questions of the day, a proceeding practical 
enough, especially in confirming such as agree with him already, 
but the extreme opposite to the scientific way of eliciting truth. 
The ethnographer's course, again, should be like that of the 
ana-tomist who carries on his studies if possible rather on dead 
than on living subjects ; vivisection is nervous work, and the 
humane investigator hates inflicting needless ]Dain. Thus when 
the student of culture occupies himself in viewing the bearings 
of exploded controversies, or in unravelling the history of long- 
superseded inventions, he is gladly seeking his evidence rather 
in such dead old history, than in the discussions w^here he and 
those he lives among are alive with intense party feeling, and 

^ Conyers Middleton, 'A Letter from Rome,' 1729 ; Hor. Sat. I. v. 98. 


where his judgment is biassed by the pressure of personal sym- 
pathy, and even it may be of personal gain or loss. So, from 
things which perhaps never were of high importance, things 
which have fallen out of popular significance, or even out of 
popular memory, he tries to elicit general laws of culture, often 
to be thus more easily and fully gained than in the arena of 
modern philosophy and politics. 

But the opinions drawn from old or worn-out culture are not to 
be left lying where they vv^ere shaped. It is no more reasonable 
to suppose the laws of mind differently constituted in Australia 
and in England, in the time of the cave-dwellers and in the time 
of the builders of sheet-iron houses, than to suppose that the 
laws of chemical combination were of one sort in the time of 
the coal-measures, and are of another now. The thing that has 
been will be ; and we are to study savages and old nations to 
learn the laws that under new circumstances are working for 
good or ill in our own development. If it is needful to give an 
instance of the directness with which antiquity and savagery 
bear upon our modern life, let it be taken in the facts just brought 
forward on the relation of ancient sorcery to the belief in 
witchcraft which was not long since one of the gravest facts of 
European history, and of savage spiritualism to beliefs which so 
deeply affect our civilization now. No one who can see in these 
cases, and in many others to be brought before him in these 
volumes, how direct and close the connexion may be between 
modern culture and the condition of the rudest savage, will be 
prone to accuse students who spend their labour on even the 
lowest and most trifling facts of ethnography, of wasting their 
hours in the satisfaction of a frivolous curiosity. 



Element of directly expressive Sound in Language— Test by indejDendent corre- 
spondence in distinct languages — Constituent processes of Language — Gesture 
— Expression of feature, etc. — Emotional Tone — Articulate sounds, vowels 
determined by musical quality and pitch, consonants — Emphasis and Accent 
■ — Phrase-melody, Recitative — Sound- Words — Interjections — Calls to Ani- 
mals — Emotional Cries — Sense-Words formed from Interjections — Affirmative 
and Negative particles, etc. 

In carrying on the enquiry into the development of culture, 
evidence of some weight is to be gained from an examination 
of Language. Comparing the grammars and dictionaries of 
races at various grades of civilization, it appears that, in the 
great art of speech, the educated man at this day substantially 
uses the method of the savage, only expanded and improved in 
the working out of details. It is true that the languages of the 
Tasmanian and the Chinese, of the Greenlander and the Greek, 
differ variously in structure ; but this is a secondary difference, 
underlaid by a primary similarity of method, the expression 
of ideas by articulate sounds habitually allotted to them. 'Now 
all languages are found on inspection to contain some articulate 
sounds of a directly natural and directly intelligible kind. 
These are sounds of interjectional or imitative character, which 
have their meaning not by inheritance from parents or adoption 
from foreigners, but by being taken up directly from the world 
of sound into the world of sense. Like pantomimic gestures, 
they are capable of conveying their meaning of themselves, 
without reference to the particular language they are used in con- 
nexion with. From the observation of these, there have arisen 
speculations as to the origin of language, treating such expres- 

YOL. I. L 


sive sounds as the fundamental constituents of language in 
general, considering those of them which are still plainly recog- 
nizable as having remained more or less in their original 
state, long courses of adaptation and variation having produced 
from such the great mass of words in all languages, in which 
no connexion between idea and sound can any longer be cer- 
tainly made out. Thus grew up doctrines of a " natural " origin 
of language, which, dating from classic times, were developed 
in the eighteenth century into a system by that powerful 
thinker, the President Charles de Brosses, and in our own time 
are being expanded and solidified by a school of philologers,, 
among whom Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood is the most promi- 
nent.^ These theories have no doubt been incautiously and 
fancifully worked. No v^onder that students who found in 
nature real and direct sources of articulate speech, in inter- 
jectional sounds like ah ! ugh ! /I'm / sh ! and in imitative 
sounds like purr, whiz, tomto7)%, cuckoo, should have thought 
that the whole secret of language lay within their grasp, and 
that they had only to fit the keys thus found into one hole 
after another to open every lock. When a philosopher has a 
truth in his hands, he is apt to stretch it farther than it will 
bear. The magic umbrella must spread and spread till it be- 
comes a tent wide enough to shelter the king's army. But it 
must be borne in mind that what criticism touches in these 
opinions is their exaggeration, not their reality. That inter- 
jections and imitative words are really taken up to some extent, 
be it small or large, into the very body and structure of lan- 
guage, no one denies. Such a denial, if any one offered it, the 
advocates of the disputed theories might dispose of in the 
single phrase, that they would neither be pooh-poohed nor 
hooted down. It may be shown within the limits of the most 
strict and sober argument, that the theory of the origin of lan- 
guage in natural and directly expressive sounds does account 
for a considerable fraction of the existing copia verborum. 

^ C. de Brosses, *Trait(;de la Formation Mecaiiique des Langues,' etc. (1st ed. 
1765) ; Wedgwood, 'Origin of Language' (1866); 'Die. of English Etymology * 
(1859, etc.) ; Farrar, * Chapters on Language ' (1865). 


while it raises a presumption that, could we trace the history 
of words more fully, it would account for far more. 

In here examining interjectional and imitative sounds with 
their derivative words, as well as certain other parts of language 
of a more or less cognate character, I purpose to bring forv/ard 
as far as possible new evidence derived from the languages of 
savage and barbarous races. By so doing it becomes practicable 
to use a check which in great measure stops the main source of 
uncertainty and error in such enquiries, the habit of etymolo- 
gizing words off-hand from expressive sounds, by the unaided 
and often flighty fancy of a philologer. By simply enlarging 
the survey of language, the province of the imagination is 
brought within narrower limits. If several languages, which 
cannot be classed as distinctly of the same family, unite in ex- 
pressing some notion by a particular sound which may fairly 
claim to be interjectional or imitative, their combined claim v/ill 
go far to prove the claim a just one. For if it be objected that 
such Yfords may have passed into the different languages from a 
common source, of which the trace is for the most part lost, this 
may be answered by the question. Why is there not a propor- 
tionate agreement between the languages in question throughout 
the far larger mass of words which cannot pretend to be direct 
sound-words 'i If several languages have independently chosen 
like words to express like meanings, then we may reasonably 
suppose that we are not deluding ourselves in thinking such 
words highly appropriate to their purpose. They are words 
which answer the conditions of original language, conforming 
as they do to the saying of Thomas Aquinas, that the names 
of things ought to agree with their natures, " nomina debent 
naturis renmi congruere." Applied in such comparison, the 
languages of the lower races contribute evidence of excellent 
quality to the problem. It will at the same time and by the 
same proofs appear, that savages possess in a high degree the 
faculty of uttering their minds directly in emotional tones and 
interjections, of going straight to nature to furnish themselves 
with imitative sounds, including reproductions of their own 
direct emotional utterances, as means of expression of ideas, 
and of introducing into their formal language words so pro- 

L 2 


duced. Tliey have clearly thus far the means and power of 
producing language. In so far as the theories under considera- 
tion account for the original formation of language, they counte- 
nance the view that this formation took place among mankind 
in a savage state, and even, for anything appearing to the con- 
trary, in a still lower stage of culture than has survived to our 

The first step in such investigation is to gain a clear idea of 
the various elements of which spoken language is made up. 
These may be enumerated as gesture, expression of feature, 
emotional tone, emphasis, force, speed, etc. of utterance, musical 
rhythm and intonation, and the formation of the vowels and 
consonants which are the skeleton of articulate speech. 

In the common intercourse of men, speech is habitually 
accompanied by gesture, the hands, head, and body aiding and 
illustrating the spoken phrase. So far as we can judge, the 
visible gesture and the audible word have been thus used in 
combination since times of most remote antiquity in the history 
of our race. It seems, however, that in the daily intercourse of 
the lower races, gesture holds a much more important place than 
we are accustomed to see it fill, a position even encroaching on 
that which articulate speech holds among ourselves. Mr. Bon- 
wick confirms by his experience Dr. Milligan's account of the 
Tasmanians as using " signs to eke out the meaning of mono- 
syllabic expressions, and to give force, precision, and character 
to vocal sounds." Captain Wilson remarks on the use of gesti- 
culation in modifying words in the Chinook Jargon. There is 
confirmation to Spix and Martins' description of low Brazilian 
tribes completing by signs the meaning of their scanty sentences, 

^ Among tlie princijDal savage and barbaric languages here used for evidence, 
are as follows : — Africa : Galla (Tutschek, Gr. and Die), Yoruba (Bowen, Gr. 
and Die), Zulu (Dolme, Die). Polynesia, etc. : Maori (Kendall, Yocab., Williams, 
Die), Tonga (Mariner, Vocab.), Fiji (Hazlewood, Die), Melanesia (Gabelentz, 
Melan. Spr.). Australia (Grey, Moore, Sclmrmann, Oldfield.Vocabs.) N.America : 
Pima, Yakama, Clallam, Lummi, Cliinuk, Moliawk, Micmac (Smithson. Contr. 
vol. iii.), Chinook Jargon (Gibbs, Die), Quiche (Brasseur, Gr. and Die). 
S. America : Tupi (Diaz, Die), Carib (Rochefort, Yocab.), Quichua (Markham, 
Gr. and Die), Chilian (Febres, Die), Brazilian tribes (Martins, * Glossaria 
linguaruniBrasiliensium'). Many details in Pott, 'Doppelung,' etc. 


thus making the words " wood-go " serve to say " I will go into 
the wood," by pointing the mouth like a snout in the direction 
meant. The Rev. J. L. Wilson, describing the Grebo language 
of West Africa, remarks that they have personal pronouns, but 
seldom use them in conversation, leaving it to gesture to deter- 
mine whether a verb is to be taken in tlie first or second per- 
son ; thus the words " ni ne " will mean " I do it," or " you do 
it," according to the significant gestures of the speaker.^ Beside 
such instances, it will hereafter be noticed that the lower races, 
in counting, habitually use gesture-language for a purpose to 
which higher races apply word-language. To this prominent 
condition of gesture as a means of expression among rude tribes, 
and to the development of pantomime in public show and pri- 
vate intercourse among such peoples as the Neapolitans of our 
own day, the most extreme contrast may be found in England, 
where, whether for good or ill, suggestive pantomime is now 
reduced to so small a compass in social talk, and even in public 

Changes of the bodily attitude, corresponding in their fine 
gradations with changes of the feelings, comprise conditions of 
the surface of the body, postures of the limbs, and also especially 
those expressive attitudes of the face to which our attention is 
particularly directed when we notice one another. The visible 
expression of the features is a symptom which displays the 
speaker's state of mind, his feelings of pleasure or disgust, of 
pride or humility, of faith or doubt, and so forth. Not that 
there is between the emotion and its bodily expression any 
originally intentional connexion. It is merely that a certain 
action of our physical machinery shows symptoms which we 
have learnt by experience to refer to a mental cause, as v/e 
judge by seeing a man sweat or limp that he is hot or foot- 
sore. Blushing is caused by certain emotions, and among 
Europeans it is a visible expression or symptom of them ; not 
so among South American Indians, whose blushes, as Mr. David 

* Bonwiclc, 'Daily Life of Tasmanians,' p. 140; Capt. Wilson, in 'Tr, Etli. 
Soc.,' vol. iv. p. 322, etc. ; J, L. Wilson, in * Joiirn, Amer. Oriental Soc.,' vol. i. 
1849, No. 4; also Cranz, 'Gronland,' p. 279 (cited below, p. 1G9). For other 
accounts, see 'Early Hist, of Mankind,' p. 77. 


Forbes points out, may be detected by the hand or a thermo- 
meter, but being concealed by the dark skin cannot serve as 
a visible sign of feeling.^ By turning these natural processes 
to account, men contrive to a certain extent to put on particular 
physical expressions, frowning or smiling for instance, in order 
to simulate the emotions which would naturally produce such 
expressions, or merely to convey the thought of such emotions 
to others. Now it is well known to every one that physical ex- 
pression by feature, etc., forming a part of the universal gesture- 
language, thus serves as an important adjunct to spoken lan- 
guage. It is not so obvious, but on examination will prove to 
be true, that such expression by feature itself acts as a forma- 
tive power in vocal language. Expression of countenance has 
an action beyond that of mere visible gesture. The bodily 
attitude brought on by a particular state of mind affects the 
position of the organs of speech, both the internal larynx, etc., 
and the external features whose change can be watched by the 
mere looker-on. Even though the expression of the speaker's 
face may not be seen by the hearer, the effect of the whole 
bodily attitude of which it forms part is not thereby done away 
with. For on the position thus taken by the various organs 
concerned in speech, depends what I have here called "emo- 
tional tone," whereby the voice carries direct expression of 
the speaker's feeling. 

The ascertaining of the precise physical mode in which cer- 
tain attitudes of the internal and external face come to corre- 
spond to certain moods of mind, is a physiological problem as 
yet little understood ; but the fact that particular expressions of 
face are accompanied by corresponding and dependent expres- 
sions of emotional tone, only requires an observer or a looking- 
glass to prove it. The laugh made with a solemn, contemptuous 
or sarcastic face, is quite different from that which comes from 
a joyous one ; the ah ! oh ! ho ! hey ! and so on, change their 
modulations to match the expression of countenance. The 
effect of the emotional tone does not even require fitness in 
the meaning of the spoken words, for nonsense or an unknown 

1 Forbes, 'Aj'mara Indians,' in Journ. Etli. Soc. 1870, vol. ii. p. 208. 


tongue may be made to convey, when spoken with expressive 
intonation, the feelings which are displayed upon the speaker's 
face. This expression may even be recognized in the dark by 
noticing the tone it gives forth, while the forced character 
given by the attempt to bring out a sound not matching even 
the outward play of the features can hardly be hidden by the 
most expert ventriloquist, and in such forcing, the sound per- 
ceptibly drags the face into the attitude that fits with it. The 
nature of communication by emotional tone seems to me to be 
somewhat on this wise. It does not appear that particular 
tones at all belong directly and of themselves to particular 
emotions, but that their action depends on the vocal organs of 
the speaker and hearer. Other animals, having vocal organs 
different from man's, have accordingly, as we know, a different 
code of emotional tones. An alteration in man's vocal organs 
would bring a corresponding alteration in the effect of tone in 
expressing feeling ; the tone which to us expresses surprise or 
anger might come to express pleasure, and so forth. As it is, 
children learn by early experience that such and such a tone 
indicates such and such an emotion, and this they make out 
partly by finding themselves uttering such tones when their 
feelings have brought their faces to the appropriate attitudes, 
and partly by observing the expression of voice in others. At 
three or four years old they are to be seen in the act of acquir- 
ing this knowledge, turning round to look at the speaker's 
face and gesture to make sure of the meaning of the tone. 
But in later years this knowledge becomes so familiar that it is 
supposed to have been intuitive. Then, when men talk together, 
the hearer receives from such emotional tone an indication, a 
signal, of the speaker's attitude of body, and through this of 
his state of mind. These he can recognize, and even reproduce 
in himself, as the operator at one end of a telegraphic wire can 
follow, by noticing his needles, the action of his colleague at the 
other. In watching the process which thus enables one man 
to take a copy of another's emotions through their physical 
effects on his vocal tone, we may admire the perfection with 
which a means so simple answers an end so complex, and appa- 
rently so remote. 


By eliminating from speech all effects of gesture, of expres- 
sion of face, and of emotional tone, we go far toward reducing 
it to that system of conventional articulate sounds which the 
grammarian and the comparative philologist habitually consider 
as language. These articulate sounds are capable of being 
roughly set down in signs standing for vowels and consonants, 
with the aid of accents and other significant marks ; and they 
may then again be read aloud from these written signs, by any 
one who has learnt to give its proper sound to each letter. 

What vowels are, is a matter which has been for some years 
well understood.^ They are compound musical tones such as, 
in the vox humana stop of the organ, are sounded by reeds 
(vibrating tongues) fitted to organ-pipes of particular con- 
struction. The manner of formation of vowels by the voice is 
shortly this. There are situated in the larynx a pair of vibrat- 
ing membranes called the vocal chords, which may be rudely 
imitated by stretching a piece of sheet india-rubber over the 
open end of a tube, so as to form two half-covers to it, " like 
the parchment of a drum split across the middle ;" when the 
tube is blown through, the india-rubber flaps will vibrate as- 
the vocal chords do in the larynx, and give out a sound. In 
the human voice, the musical effect of the vibrating chords is 
increased by the cavity of the mouth, which acts as a resonator 
or sounding-box, and which also, by its shape at any moment, 
modifies the musical "quality" of the sound produced. 
Quality, which is independent of pitch, depends on the har- 
monic overtones accompanying the fundamental tone which 
alone musical notation takes account of : this quality makes the 
difference between the same note on two instruments, flute and 
piano for instance, while some instruments, as the violin, can 
give to one note a wide variation of quality. To such quality 
the formation of vowels is due. This is perfectly shown by the 
common Jew's harp, which when struck can be made to utter 
the vowels a, e, i, o, u, &c., by simply putting the mouth in 
the proper position for speaking these vowels. In this experi- 

* See Helmholtz, 'Tonempfindimgen,' 2nd ed. p. 163; Tyndall, 'Sound,' 
lecture v. ; ^lax Muller, ' Lectures, ' 2nd scries, p. 95, etc. 


ment the player's voice emits no sound, but the vibrating tongue 
of the Jew's harp placed in front of the mouth acts as a substi- 
tute for the vocal chords, and the vowel-sounds are produced by 
the various positions of the cavity of the mouth modifying the 
quality of the note, by bringing out with different degrees of 
strength the series of harmonic tones of which it is composed. 
As to musical theory, emotional tone and vowel-tone are con- 
nected. In fact, an emotional tone ma}^ be defined as a vowel, 
whose particular musical quality is that produced by the human 
vocal organs, when adjusted to a particular state of feeling. 

Europeans, while using modulation of musical pitch as affect- 
ing the force of words in a sentence, know nothing of making 
it alter the dictionary-meaning of a word. But this device is 
knov/n elsewhere, especially in South-East Asia, where rises and 
falls of tone, to some extent like those which serve us in con- 
veying emphasis, question and answer, &c., actually give 
different signification. Thus in Siamese, hd = to seek, /2,«= pesti- 
lence, /id = five. The consequence of this elaborate system of 
tone-accentuation is the necessity of an accumulation of exple- 
tive particles, to supply the place of the oratorical or emphatic 
intonation, which being thus given over to the dictionary is lost 
for the grammar. Another consequence is, that the system of 
setting poetry to music becomes radically different from ours ; to 
sing a Siamese song to a European tune makes the meaning 
of the syllables alter according to their rise and fall in pitch, 
and turns their sense into the wildest nonsense.^ In West Africa, 
again, the same device appears: Thus in Dahoman 80 = stick, 
sJ= horse, so = thunder ; Yoruba, hd =with, ?>d=bend.^ For 
practical purposes, this linguistic music is hardly to be com- 
mended, but theoretically it is interesting, as showing that 
man does not servilely follow an intuitive or inherited scheme 
of language, but works out in various ways the resources of 
sound as a means of expression. 

The theory of consonants is much more obscure than that of 

1 See Pallegoix, * Gramm. Ling. Thai.;' Bastiaii, in 'Monatsb. Berlin. Akad.' 
June 6, 1867, and 'Roy. Asiatic Soc' June, 1867. 

^ Burton, in 'Mem. Anthrop. Soc.,' vol. i. p. 313; Bowen, 'Yoruba Gr. and 
Die.,' p. 5 ; see J. L. Wilson, 'W. Afr.,' p. 461. 


vowels. They are not musical vibrations as vowels are, but 
noises accompanying them. To the musician such noises as the 
rushing of the wind from the organ-pipe, the scraping of the 
violin, the sputtering of the flute, are simply troublesome as inter- 
fering with his musical tones, and he takes pains to diminish them 
as much as may be. But in the art of language noises of this 
kind, far from being avoided, are turned to immense account 
by being used as consonants, in combination with the musical 
vowels. As to the positions and movements of the vocal organs 
in producing consonants, an excellent account with anatomical 
diagrams is given in Professor Max Miiller's second series of 
Lectures. For the present purpose of passing in review the 
various devices by which the language-maker has contrived to 
make sound a means of expressing thought, perhaps no better 
illustration of their nature can be mentioned than Sir Charles 
Wheatstone's account of his speaking machine ;^ for one of the 
best ways of studying difficult phenomena is to see them arti- 
ficially imitated. The instrument in question pronounced 
Latin, French, and Italian words well : it could say, " Je vous 
aime de tout mon coeur," " Leopoldus Secundus Romanorum 
Imperator," and so forth, but it was not so successful with Ger- 
man. As to the vowels, they were of course simply sounded by 
suitable reeds and pipes. To affect them with consonants, con- 
trivances were arranged to act like the human organs. Thus p 
was made by suddenly removiug the operator's hand from the 
mouth of the figure, and h in the same way, except that the mouth 
was not quite covered, while an outlet like the nostrils was used 
in forming im ; f and v were rendered by modifying the shape 
of the mouth hj a hand ; air was made to rush through small 
tubes to produce the sibilants s and sh ; and the liquids r and I 
were sounded by the action of tremulous reeds. As Wheat- 
stone remarks, the most important use of such ingenious 
mechanical imitations of speech may be to fix and preserve an 
accurate register of the pronunciation of different languages. 
A perfectly arranged speaking machine would in fact represent 
for us that framework of language which consists of mere 

^ C. "VV., in 'London and Westminster Ee view,' Oct. 1837. 


Yowels and consonants, though without most of those expressive 
^adjuncts which go to make up the conversation of speaking men. 
Of vowels and- consonants capable of being employed in lan- 
guage, man is able to pronounce and distinguish an enormous 
variety. But this great stock of possible sounds is nowhere 
brought into use altogether. Each language or dialect of the 
world is found in practice to select a limited series of definite 
vowels and consonants, keeping with tolerable exactness to each, 
and thus choosing what we may call its phonetic alphabet. 
Neglecting such minor differences as occur in the speech of in- 
dividuals or small communities, each dialect of the world may 
be said to have its own phonetic system, and these phonetic 
■systems vary widely. Our vowels, for instance, differ much 
from those of French and Dutch. French knows nothing of 
■either of the sounds which we write as tli in tidn and that, 
while the Castilian lisped c, the so-called ceceo, is a third con- 
sonant which we must again make shift to write as tli, though 
it is quite distinct in sound from both our own. It is quite a 
usual thing for us to find foreign languages wanting letters 
even near in sound to some of ours, while possessing others un- 
familiar to ourselves. Among such cases are the Chinese difii- 
€ulty in pronouncing r, and the want of s and / in Australian 
dialects. When foreigners tried to teach the Mohawks, who 
have no labials in their language, to pronounce words with jp 
and h in them, they protested that it was too ridiculous to expect 
people to shut their mouths to speak ; and the Portuguese dis- 
•coverers of Brazil, remarking that the natives had neither/, Z, 
nor r in their language, neatly described them as a people with 
neither fe, ley, nor rey, neither faith, law, nor king. It may 
happen, too, that sounds only used by some nations as interjec- 
tional noises, unwritten and unwriteable, shall be turned to 
account by others in their articulate language. Something of 
this kind occurs with the noises called " cUcks." Such sounds 
are familiar to us as interjections ; thus the lateral click made 
in the cheek (and usually in the left cheek) is continually used 
in driving horses, while varieties of the dental and palatal click 
made with the tongue against the teeth and the roof of the 
mouth, are common in the nursery as expressions of surprise, 


reproof, or satisfaction. Thus, too, the natives of Tierra del 
^uego express " no " by a j)eculiar cluck, as do also the Turks, 
who accompany it with the gesture of throwing back the head; 
and it appears from the accounts of travellers that the clicks of 
surprise and admiration among the natives of Australia are 
much like those we hear at home. But thouoh here these 
clicking noises are only used interjectionally, it is well known 
that South African races have taken such sounds up into their 
articulate speech and have made, as we may say, letters of 
them. The very name of Hottentots, applied to the Namaquas 
and other kindred tribes, appears to be not a native name (as 
Peter Kolb thought) but a rude imitative word coined by the 
Dutch to express the clicking " Itot en tot^' and the term Hot- 
tentotism has been thence adopted as a medical description of 
one of the varieties of stammering. North-West America is 
another district of the world distinguished for the production of 
strange clucking, gurgling, and grunting letters, difficult or im- 
possible to European voices. Moreover, there are many sounds 
capable of being used in articulate speech, varieties of chirp- 
ing, whistling, blowing, and sucking noises, of which some are 
familiar to our own use as calls to animals, or interjectional 
noises of contempt or surprise, but which no tribe is known to 
have brought into their alphabet. With all the vast phonetic 
variety of known languages, the limits of possible utterance are 
far from being reached. 

Up to a certain point we can understand the reasons which 
have guided the various tribes of mankind in the selection of 
their various alphabets ; ease of utterance to the speaker, com- 
bined with distinctness of effect to the hearer, have been un- 
doubtedly among the principal of the selecting causes. We 
may fairly connect with the close uniformity of men's organs of 
speech all over the world, the general similarity which prevails 
in the phonetic systems of the most different languages, and 
which gives us the power of roughly writing down so large a 
proportion of one language by means of an alphabet intended 
for any other. But while we thus account by physical simila- 
rity for the existence of a kind of natural alphabet common to 
mankind, we must look to other causes to determine the selec- 


tion of sounds used in different languages, and to account for 
those remarkable courses of change which go on in languages of 
a common stock, producing in Europe such variations of one 
original word as pater, father, vater, or in the islands of Poly- 
nesia offering us the numeral 5 under the strangely- varied 
forms of lima, rima, dir)ia, nima, and Jiima. Changes of this 
sort have acted so widely and regularly, that since the enuncia- 
tion of Grimm's law their study has become a main part of 
philology. Though their causes are as yet so obscure, we may 
at least argue that such wide and definite operations cannot be 
due to chance or arbitrary fancy, but must be the result of laws 
as wide and definite as themselves. 

Let us now suppose a book to be written with a tolerably 
correct alphabet, for instance, an ordinary Italian book, or an 
English one in some good system of phonetic letters. To 
suppose English written in the makeshift alphabet which we 
still keep in use, would be of course to complicate the matter 
in hand with a new and needless difficulty. If, then, the book 
be written in a sufficient alphabet, and handed to a reader, his 
office will by no means stop short at rendering back into 
articulate sounds the vowels and consonants before him, as 
though he were reading over proofs for the press. For the 
emotional tone just spoken of has dropped out in writing down 
the words in letters, and it will be the reader's duty to guess 
from the meaning of the words what this tone should be, and 
to put it in again accordingly. He has moreover to introduce 
emphasis, whether by accent or stress, on certain syllables or 
words, thereby altering their effect in the sentence ; if he says, 
for example, " I never sold you that horse," an emphasis on any 
one of these six words will alter the import of the whole phrase. 
Now, in emphatic pronunciation two distinct processes are to 
be remarked. The effect produced by changes in loudness and 
duration of words is directly imitative ; it is a mere gesture 
made with the voice, as we may notice by the way in which any 
one will speak of " a short sharp answer," "a long iveary year,'* 
" a loud hurst of music," " a gentle gliding motion," as com- 
pared with the like manner in which the gesture-language 
would adapt its force and speed to the kind of action to be 


represented. Written language can hardly convey but by the- 
context the striking effects which our imitative faculty adds to 
spoken language, in our continual endeavour to make the 
sound of each word we speak a sort of echo to its sense. We. 
see this in the difference between writins: and tellino- the little 
story of the man who was worried by being talked to about 
"good books." "Do you mean," he asked, speaking shortly 
with a face of strong firm approval, ''good books ?" "or," with 
a drawl and a fatuous-benevolent simper, '' goo-d books 1 *^ 
Musical accent (accentus,^ musical tone) is turned to account as 
a means of emphasis, as when we give prominence to a par- 
ticular syllable or v/ord in a sentence by raising or depressing 
it a semi-tone or more. The reader has to divide his sentences 
with pauses, being guided in this to some extent by stops ; the 
rhythmic measure in which he will utter prose as well as poetry 
is not without its effect ; and he has again to introduce music 
by speaking each sentence to a kind of imperfect melody. 
Professor Helmholtz endeavours to write down in musical 
notes how a German with a bass voice, speaking on B flat, might 
say, " Ich bin spatzieren gegangen. — Bist du spatzieren gegan- 
gen ? " falling a fourth (to F) at the end of the affirmative 
sentence, and rising a fifth (to f) in asking the question, thus 
ranging through an octave.^ When an English speaker tries to 
illustrate in his own language the rising and falling tones of 
Siamese vowels, he compares them with the English tones of 
question and answer, as in "Will you go ? Yes."^ The rules 
of this imperfect musical intonation in ordinary conversation 
have been as yet but little studied. But as a means of giving 
solemnity and pathos to language, it has been more fully 
developed and even systematized under exact rules of melody, 
and we thus have on the one hand ecclesiastical intoning and the 
less conventional half-singing so often to be heard in religious 
meetings, and on the other the ancient and modern theatrical 
recitative. By such intermediate stages we may cross the wide 
interval from spoken prose, with the musical pitch of its vowels 
so carelessly kept, and so obscured by consonants as to be diffi- 

^ * Accentns est etiam in dicendo cantus obscurior.' — Cic. de Orat. 

2 Helmholtz, p. 364. 

^ Caswell, in Ba.stian, 'Berlin. Akad.' I. c. 


cult even to determine, to full song, in which the consonants 
are as much as possible suppressed, that they may not interfere 
with the precise and expressive music of the vowels. 

Proceeding now to survey such parts of the vocabulary of 
mankind as appear to have an intelligible origin in the direct 
expression of sense by sound, let us first survey Interjections. 
When Home Tooke spoke, in words often repeated since, of 
"the brutish inarticulate Interjection," he certainly meant to 
express his contempt for a mode of expression which lay outside 
his own too narrow view of language. But the epithets are in 
themselves justifiable enough. Interjections are undoubtedly 
to a certain extent "brutish " in their analogy to the cries of 
animals ; and the fact gives them an especial interest to modern 
observers, who are thus enabled to trace phenomena belonging 
to the mental state of the lower animals up into the midst of 
the most highly cultivated human language. It is also true 
that they are " inarticulate," so far at least that the systems of 
consonants and vowels recognized by grammarians break dov/n 
more hopelessly than elsewhere in the attempt to write down 
interjections. Alphabetic writing is far too incomplete and 
clumsy an instrument to render their peculiar and variously- 
modulated sounds, for which a few conventionally-written words 
do duty poorly enough. In reading aloud, and sometimes even 
in the talk of those who have learnt rather from books than 
from the living world, we may hear these awkward imitations, 
ahem ! heiii ! tush ! tut ! pshaw ! now carrying the un- 
questioned authority of words printed in a book, and reproduced 
letter for letter, with a most amusing accuracy. But when 
Home Tooke fastens upon an unfortunate Italian grammarian, 
and describes him as " The industrious and exact Cinonio, who 
does not appear ever to have had a single glimpse of reason," it 
is not easy to see what the pioneer of English philology could 
find to object to in Cinonio's obviously true assertion, that a 
single interjection, ah ! or ahi ! is capable of expressing more 
than twenty different emotions or intentions, such as pain, 
entreaty, threatening, sighing, disdain, according to the tone in 
which it is uttered.^ The fact that interjections do thus utter 
^ Home Tooke, 'Diversions of Parley,' 2nd ed. London, 1798, pt. i. pp. 60 — 3. 


feelings is quite beyond dispute, and the philologist's concern 
with them is on the one hand to study their action in ex- 
pressing emotion, and on the other to trace their passage into 
more fully-formed words, such as have their place in connected 
syntax and form part of logical propositions. 

In the first place, however, it is necessary to separate from 
proper interjections the many sense-words which, often kept up in. 
a mutilated or old-fashioned guise, come so close to them both in 
appearance and in use. Among classic examples are (pipe, bevre, 
age ! macte ! Such a word is hail ! which, as the Gothic 
Bible shows, was originally an adjective, "whole, hale, pros- 
perous," used vocatively, just as the Italians cij bravo ! hrava ! 
hravi ! brave ! When the African negro cries out in fear or 
w^onder mdmd I mdmd ! ^ he might be thought to be uttering a 
real interjection, "a word used to express some passion or 
emotion of the mind," as Lindley Murray has it, but in fact he 
is simply calling, grown-up baby as he is, for his mother ; and 
the very same thing has been noticed among Indians of Upper 
California, who as an expression of pain cry, and ! that is, 
"mother."^ Other exclamations consist of a pure interjection 
combined with a pronoun, as ot/xot ! oime ! ah me ! or with an 
adjective, as alas ! helas ! (ah weary !) With what care inter- 
jections should be sifted, to avoid the risk of treating as original 
elementary sounds of language what are really nothing but 
sense-words, we may judge from the way in which the common 
English exclamation well ! ivell ! approaches the genuine inter- 
jectional sound in the Coptic expression " to make ouelouele" 
which signifies to wail, Latin ululare. Still better, we may 
find a learned traveller in the last century quite seriously re- 
marking, apropos of the old Greek battle-shout, akaXd ! aXaXd ! 
that the Turks to this day call out Allah! Allah! Allah! 
upon the like occasion.^ 

^ R. F. Burton, ' Lake Regions of Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 333 ; Living- 
stone, 'Missionary Tr. in S. Africa,' p. 298; * Gr. of Mpongwe ]ang.' (A, B. C. 
F. Missions, Rev. J. L. Wilson), p. 27. See Callawa}'-, 'Zulu Tales,' vol. i. 
p. 59. 

2 Arroyo de la Cuesta, 'Gr. of Mutsun lang.,' p. 39, in ' Sniitlisonian Coutr.,' 
vol. iii. 

3 Shaw, 'Travels in Barbary,' in Pinkerton, vol. xv. p. 669. 


The calls to animals customary in different countries^ are to 
a great extent interjection al in their use, but ta attempt to 
explain them as a whole is to step upon as slippery ground 
as lies within the range of philology. Sometimes they may be 
in fact pure interjections, like the schil schll ! mentioned as 
an old German cry to scare birds, as we should say sh sh ! or 
the ad I with which the Indians of Brazil call their dogs. Or 
they may be set down as simple imitations of the animal's own 
cries, as the clucJdng to call fowls in our own farm-yards, or the 
Austrian calls of pi pi ! or tiet tiet ! to chickens, or the 
Swabian kauter kaut ! to turkeys, or the shepherd's haaing to 
call sheep in India. In other cases, however, they may be 
sense-words more or less broken down, as when the creature is 
spoken to by a sound which seems merely taken from its own 
common name. If an English countryman meets a stray 
sheep-dog, he will simply call to him ship ! shi'p ! So scJidp 
schdp ! is an Austrian call to sheep, and koss kuhel koss ! to 
cows. In German districts gus gus ! gusch gusch ! gos gos ! 
are set down as calls to geese ; and when we notice that the 
Bohemian peasant calls husy ! to them, we remember that the 
name for goose in his language is husa, a word familiar to 
English ears in the name of John Huss. The Bohemian, again, 
will call to his dog ps ps ! but then pes means " dog." Other 
sense-words addressed to animals break down by long repeti- 
tion into mutilated forms. When we are told that the to to ! 
with which a Portuguese calls a dog is short for toma toma ! 
(i.e., " take take ! ") which tells him to come and take his food, 
we admit the explanation as plausible ; and the coop coop ! 
which a cockney might so easily mistake for a pure interjection, 
is only " Come up ! come up ! " 

*' Come uppe, "WTiitefoot, come Tippe, Lightfoot, 
Come uppe, Jetty, rise and follow, 
Jetty, to the milking shed." 

But I cannot offer a plausible guess at the origin of such calls 
as hilf hilf! to horses, hiihl hiihl ! to geese, deckel deckel ! to 

^ Some of the examples here cited, will be found in Grimm, 'Deutsche Gr.' 
vol. iii. p. 308; Pott, * Doppelung.' p. 27; Wedgwood, ' Origin of Language. ' 

VOL. I. M 


sheep. It is fortunate for etymologists that such trivial little 
words have not an importance proportioned to the difficulty of 
clearing up their origin. The word 'puss ! raises an interesting 
philological problem. An English child calling puss puss ! is 
very likely keeping up the trace of the old Keltic name for the cat, 
Irish p>us, Erse p)usag, Gaelic puis. Similar calls are known else- 
where in Europe (as in Saxony, p'^s 'p'ds !), and there is some 
reason to think that the cat, which came to us from the East, 
brought with it one of its names, which is still current there, 
Tamil pllsei ! Afghan pusha, Persian p>ushak, &c. Mr. Wedg- 
wood finds an origin for the call in an imitation of the cat's 
spitting, and remarks that the Servians cry pis I to drive a cat 
away, while the Albanians use a similar sound to call it. The 
T\^ay in which the cry of puss ! has furnished a name for the cat 
itself, comes out curiously in countries where the animal has 
been lately introduced by Englishmen. Thus boosi is the 
recognized word for cat in the Tonga Islands, no doubt from 
Captain Cook's time. Among Indian tribes of North-west 
America, pwsh, pish-pish, appear in native languages with the 
meaning of cat ; and not only is the European cat called a 
puss puss in the Chinook jargon, but in the same curious 
dialect the word is applied to a native beast, the cougar, now 
called "hyas puss-puss" i.e., "great cat."^ 

The derivation of names of animals in this manner from calls 
to them, may perhaps not have been unfrequent. It appears 
that huss ! is a cry used in Switzerland to set dogs on to fight, 
as s — s ! might be in England, and that the Swiss call a dog 
huss or hauss, possibly from this. We know the cry of dill 1 
dilly ! as a recognised call to ducks in England, and it is 
difficult to think it a corruption of any English word or phrase, 
for the Bohemians also call dlidli I to their ducks. Now, 
though dill or dilly may not be found in our dictionaries as the 

1 See Pictet, 'Origin. Indo-Europ.' part i. p. 382; Caldwell, 'Gr. ofDravi- 
dian Langs.' p. 465 ; "Wedgwood, Die. s. v. 'puss,' etc. ; Mariner, * Tonga Is. 
Vocab.' ; Gibbs, •'Die. of Chinook Jargon,' Smithsonian Coll. No. 161; Pan- 
dosy, * Gr. and Die. of Yakama, ' Smithson. Contr. vol. iii. ; compare J. L. 
Wilson, 'Mpongwe Gr.' p. 57. The Hindu child's call to the cat munmun! 
may be broken down from Hindust. 'im.dno=cdiX', compare the German calls 
minni ! minz! and the French names, minon, mincUe. 


name for a duck, yet the way in which Hood can use it ag such 
in one of his best known comic poems, shows perfectly the easy 
and natural step by which such transitions can be made : — 

*' Por Death among the water-lilies, 
Cried ' Due ad me ' to all her diUies." 

In just the same way, because gee ! is a usual call of the 
English waggoner to his horses, the word gee-gee has become a 
familiar nursery noun meaning a horse. And neither in such 
nursery words, nor in words coined in jest, is the evidence 
bearing on the origin of language to be set aside as worthless ; 
for it may be taken as a maxim of ethnology, that what is done 
among civilized men in jest, or among civilized children in the 
nursery, is apt to find its analogue in the serious mental effort 
of savage, and therefore of primasval tribes. 

Drivers' calls to their beasts, such as this gee I gee-ho ! to urge on 
horses, and weh ! woh ! to stop them, form part of the vernacular 
of particular districts. The geho ! perhaps, came to England in 
the Norman-French, for it is known in France, and appears in 
the Italian dictionary as gio ! The traveller who has been 
hearing the drivers in the Grisons stop their horses with a long 
hr-r-T ! may cross a pass and hear on the other side a hil-u-u ! 
instead. The ploughman's calls to turn the leaders of the team 
to right and left have passed into proverb. In France they say 
of a stupid clown " II n'entend ni a dia ! ni a hurhaut ! " and 
the corresponding Platt-Deutsch phrase is " He weet nich hutt ! 
noch hoh ! " So there is a regular language to camels, as 
Captain Burton remarks on his journey to Mekka : ikh ikh ! 
makes them kneel, ydhh ydhh ! urges them on, hai hai ! 
induces caution, and so forth. In the formation of these quaint 
expressions, two causes have been at work. The sounds seem 
sometimes thoroughly interjectional, as the Arab hai ! of 
caution, or the French hue ! North German ^^o .' Whatever their 
origin, they may be made to carry their sense by imitative tones 
expressive to the ear of both horse and man, as any one will say 
who hears the contrast between the short and sharp high-pitched 
hilp ! which tells the Swiss horse to go faster, and the long- 

]n 2 


drawn hu-il-il-u ! which brings him to a stand. Also, the way in 
which common sense-words are taken up into calls like gee-up I 
woh-hackl shows that we may expect to find various old 
broken fragments of formal language in the list, and such on 
inspection we find accordingly. The following lines are quoted 
by Halliwell from the Micro-Cynicon (1599) : — 

" A base borne issue of a baser syer, 
Bred in a cottage, wandering in the myer, 
With nailed shooes and whipstaffe in his hand, 
"Who with a hey and ree the beasts command." 

The ree! is equivalent to "right" (riddle-me-ree=riddle me 
right), and tells the leader of the team to bear to the right hand. 
The hey ! may correspond with heit I or camether ! which call 
him to bear "hither," i.e., to the left. In Germany har ! hdr I 
har-uh ! are likewise the same as "her," "hither, to the left." 
So swude I schwude ! zwuder ! " to the left," are of course 
simply " zuwider," " on the contrary way." Pairs of calls for 
" right " and " left " in German-speaking countries are hot ! — 
har ! and hott ! — wist ! This wist ! is an interesting example 
of the keeping up of ancient words in such popular tradition. 
It is evidently a mutilated form of an old German word for the 
left hand, winistrd, Anglo-Saxon winstre, a name long since 
forgotten by modern High German, as by our own modern 

As quaint a mixture of words and interjectional cries as I 
have met with, is in an old French Cyclopaedia,^ which gives a 
minute description of the hunter's craft, and prescribes exactly 
what is to be cried to the hounds under all possible contin- 
gencies of the chase. If the creatures understood grammar and 
syntax, the language could not be more accurately arranged 
for their ears. Sometimes we have what seem pure inter- 

^ For lists of drivers' words, see Grimm, 1. c. ; Pott, ' Zahlmethode,' p. 261 ; 
Halliwell, 'Die. of Archaic and Provincial English,' s. v. * ree ; ' Brand, vol ii. 
p. 15 ; Pictet, part ii. p. 489. 

^ 'Eecueil de Planches sur les Sciences, les Arts, etc.,' Paris, 1763, art. 
* Chasses.' The traditional cries are still more or less in use. See ' A Week in a 
Prench Country-house.' 


jectional cries. Thus, to encourage the hounds to work, the 
huntsman is to call to them ha halle Jialle halle ! while to 
bring them up before they are uncoupled it is prescribed that 
he shall call han hau ! or Jiau tahaut ! and when they are 
uncoupled he is to change his cry to hau la y la la y la tayau ! 
a call which suggests the Norman original of the English 
tally-ho ! With cries of this kind plain French words are 
intermixed, hd hellement Id ila, Id ila, hau valet ! — hau rami, 
tau tau apres apres, d route d route ! and so on. And some- 
times words have broken down into calls whose sense is not 
quite gone, like the " voila ici " and the " voila ce Test," 
which are still to be distinguished in the shout which is to tell 
the hunters that the stag they have been chasing has made a 
return, vauleci revari vauleceletz ! But the drollest thing in the 
treatise is the grave set of English words (in very Gallic shape) 
with which English dogs are to be spoken to, because, as the 
author says, " there are many English hounds in France, and it 
is difficult to get them to work when you speak to them in an 
unknown tongue, that is, in other terms than they have been 
trained to." Therefore, to call them, the huntsman is to cry 
here do-do ho ho ! to get them back to the right track he is 
to say houpe boy, houpe hoy ! when there are several on ahead 
of the rest of the pack, he is to ride up to them and cry saf me 
boy, saf me boy ! and lastly, if they are obstinate and will not 
stop, he is to make them go back with a shout of cobat, cohat I 

How far the lower animals may attach any inherent 
meaning to interjectional sounds is a question not easy to 
answer. But it is plain that in most of the cases mentioned 
here they only understand them as recognized signals which 
have a meaning by regular association, as when they remember 
that they are fed with one noise and driven away with another, 
and they also pay attention to the gestures which accompany 
the cries. Thus the well-known Spanish way of calling the cat 
is wAz miz ! while zape zape ! is used to drive it away ; and 
the writer of an old dictionary maintains that there can be no 
real difference between these words except by custom, for, he 
declares, he has heard that in a certain monastery where they 
kept very handsome cats, the brother in charge of the refectory 


hit upon the device of calling zape za'pe ! to them when he 
gave them their food, and then he drove them away with a 
stick, crying angrily miz miz ; and this of course prevented 
any stranger from calling and stealing them, for only he and 
the cats knew the secret ! ^ To philologists, the manner in 
which such calls to animals become customary in particular 
districts illustrates the consensus by which the use of words is 
settled. Each case of the kind indicates that a word has 
prevailed by selection among a certain society of men, and the 
main reasons of v/ords holding their ground within particular 
limits, though it is so difficult to assign them exactly in each 
case, are probably inherent fitness in the first place, and 
traditional inheritance in the second. 

When the ground has been cleared of obscure or mutilated 
sense-words, there remains behind a residue of real sound- 
words, or pure interjections. It has long and reasonably been 
considered that the place in history of these expressions is a 
very primitive one. Thus De Brosses describes them as neces- 
sary and natural words, common to all mankind, and produced 
by the combination of man's conformation with the interior 
affections of his mind. One of the best means of judging the 
relation between interjectional utterances and the feelings they 
express, is to compare the voices of the lower animals with our 
ov/n. To a considerable extent there is a similarity. As their 
bodily and mental structure has an analogy with our own, so 
they express their minds by sounds which have to our ears a 
certain fitness for what they appear to mean. It is so with 
the bark, the howl, and the whine of the dog, the hissing of 
geese, the purring of cats, the crowing and clucking of cocks 
and hens. But in other cases, as with the hooting of owls and 
the shrieks of parrots and many other birds, we cannot sup- 
pose that these sounds are intended to utter anything like the 
melancholy or pain which such cries from a human being 
would be taken to convey. There are many animals that 
never utter any cry but what, according to our notions of the 
meaning of sounds, would express rage or discomfort ; how far 

^ Aldrete, 'LeiiguaCastellana,' Madrid, 1673, s. vv. har?'e, exe. 


are the roars and howls of wild beasts to be thus interpreted ? 
We might as well imagine the tuning violin to be in pain, or 
the moaning wind to express sorrow. The connexion between 
interjection and emotion depending on the physical structure 
of the animal which utters or hears the sound, it follows that 
the general similarity of interjectional utterance among all the 
varieties of the human race is an important manifestation of 
their close physical and intellectual unity. 

Interjectional sounds uttered by man for the expression of 
his own feelings serve also as signs indicating these feelings to 
another. A long list of such interjections, common to races 
speaking the most widely various languages, might be set down 
in a rough way as representing the sighs, groans, moans, cries, 
shrieks, and growls by which man gives utterance to various of 
his feelings. Such, for instance, are some of the many sounds 
for which ah ! oh ! ahi ! aie ! are the inexpressive written 
representatives ; such is the sigh which is written down in the 
Wolof language of Africa as hhihhe ! in English as heigho ! in 
Greek and Latin as ee.' ee.' heu ! eheu ! Thus the open- 
mouthed wah wall ! of astonishment, so common in the East, 
reappears in America in the hiuah ! hiva-wa ! of the Chinook 
Jargon ; and the kind of groan which is represented in European 
languages by tueh ! ouais I ovai I vae ! is given in Coptic by 
ouae I in Galla by wayo ! in the Ossetic of the Caucasus by 
voy ! among the Indians of British Columbia by wo'i ! Where 
the interjections taken down in the vocabularies of other lan- 
guages differ from those recognized in our own, we at any rate 
appreciate them and see how they carr}^ their meaning. Thus 
with the Malagasy u-u ! of pleasure, the North American 
Indian's often described guttural ugh ! the Jewish ! of con- 
tempt in the Chinook Jargon, the Tunguz yo yo I of pain, the 
Irish wb wh ! of distress, the native Brazilian's teh teh I of 
wonder and reverence, the hi-yah ! so well known in the 
Pigeon-English of the Chinese ports, and even, to take an 
extreme case, the interjections of surprise among the Algonquin 
Indians, where men say tiau I and women nyau ! It is much 
the same with expressions which are not uttered for the 
speaker's satisfaction, but are calls addressed to another. Thus 


the Siamese call of he ! the Hebrew he ! ha ! for " lo ! behold !" 
the hoi! of the Clallam Indians for ''stop ! " the Lummi hdi! 
for ''hold, enough ! " — these and others like them belong just as 
much to English. Another class of interjections are such as any 
one conversant with the gesture-signs of savages and deaf-mutes 
would recognize as being themselves gesture-signs, made with 
vocal sound, in short, voice-gestures. The sound ou'tyi, wJUj 
made with the lips closed, is the obvious expression of the man 
who tries to speak, but cannot. Even the deaf-and-dumb 
child, though he cannot hear the sound of his voice, makes 
this noise to show that he is dumb, that he is mu mu, as the 
Vei negroes of West Africa would say. To the speaking man, 
the sound which we write as mum ! says plainly enough " hold 
your tongue ! " " mum's the word ! " and in accordance with 
this meaning has served to form various imitative words, of 
which a type is Tahitian mci'inu, to be silent. Often made 
with a slight effort which aspirates it, and with more or less 
continuance, this sound becomes what may be indicated as 
'tti, V, /^'m, h'n, etc., interjections which are conventionally 
written down as words, hem. I ahem. ! hein ! Their primary 
sense seems in any case that of hesitation to speak, of " hum- 
ming and hawing," but this serves with a varied intonation to 
express such hesitation or refraining from articulate words as 
belongs either to surprise, doubt or enquiry, approbation or 
contempt. In the vocabulary of the Yorubas of West Africa, 
the nasal interjection hun is rendered, just as it might be in 
English, as " fudge ! " Eochefort describes the Caribs listening 
in reverent silence to their chief's discourse, and testifying their 
approval with a hun-hun! just as in his time (17th cent.) an 
English congregation would have saluted a popular preacher.^ 
The gesture of blowing, again, is a familiar expression of contempt 
and disgust, and when vocalized gives the labial interjections which 

^ "There prevailed in those daj'^s an indecent custom; when the preacher 
touched any favourite topick in a manner that delighted his audience, their 
approbation was expressed by a loud hum, continued in proportion to their 
zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed so 
loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with his 
handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he likewise was honoured with the like 
animating hum, but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, and cried, 
' Peace, peace ; I pray you, peace.' " Johnson, 'Life of Sprat.' 


are written ^pah ! hah ! pugh ! pooh ! in Welsh pw ! in Low 
Latin puppup ! and set down by travellers among the savages 
in Australia as pooh ! These interjections correspond with 
the mass of imitative words which express blowing, such as 
Malay puput, to blow. The labial gestures of blowing pass 
into those of spitting, of which one kind gives the dental inter- 
jection f V f ! which is written in English or Dutch tut tut ! 
and that this is no mere fancy, a number of imitative verbs of 
various countries will serve to show, Tahitian tutua, to spit, 
being a typical instance. 

The place of interjectional utterance in savage intercourse is 
well shown in Granz's description. The Greenlanders, he says, 
especially the women, accompany many words with mien and 
glances, and he who does not well apprehend this may easily 
miss the sense. Thus when they affirm anything with pleasure 
they suck down air by the throat with a certain sound, and 
when they deny anything with contempt or horror, they turn 
up the nose and give a slight sound through it. And unless 
these are got rid of, one must understand more from their 
gestures than their words.^ Interjection and gesture combine to 
form a tolerable practical means of intercourse, as where the 
communication between French and English troops in the 
Crimea is described as " consisting largely of such interjectional 
utterances, reiterated with expressive emphasis and considerable 
gesticulation." ^ This description well brings before us in actual 
life a system of effective human intercourse, in which there has 
not yet arisen the use of those articulate sounds carrying theit 
meaning by tradition, which are the inherited words of the 

When, however, we look closely into these inherited sense- 
words themselves, we find that interjectional sounds have 
actually had more or less share in their formation. Not 
stopping short at the function ascribed to them by gram- 
marians, of standing here and there outside a logical sentence, 
the interjections have also served as radical sounds out of which 
verbs, substantives, and other parts of speech have been shaped. 

» Cranz, 'Grbnland,' p. 279. 

2 D. Wilson, * Prehistoric Man,' p. 65. 


In tracing the progress of interjections upward into fully de- 
veloped language, we begin with sounds merely expressing the 
speaker's actual feelings. When, however, expressive sounds, 
like ah ! iigli ! pooh ! are uttered not to exhibit the speaker's 
actual feelings at the moment, but only in order to suggest to 
another the thought of admiration or disgust, then such inter- 
jections have little or nothing to distinguish them from fully 
formed words. The next step is to trace the taking tip of such 
sounds into the regular forms of ordinary grammar. Familiar 
instances of such formations may be found among ourselves in 
nursery language, where to ivoh is found in use with the 
meaning of to stop, or in that real though hardly acknowledged 
part of the English language to which belong such verbs as to 
hoo-hoo. Among the most obvious of such words are those 
which denote the actual utterance of an interjection, or pass 
thence into some closely allied meaning. Thus the Fijian 
women's cry of lamentation oile ! becomes the verb oile "to 
bewail," oile-taJm "to lament for" (the men cry ule!) ; now this 
is in perfect analogy with such words as ululare, to wail. With 
different grammatical terminations, the same sound produces 
the Zulu verb gigiteka and its English equivalent to giggle. 
The Galla iya, "to cry, scream, give the battle-cry" has its 
analogues in Greek Id, irj, "aery," t7Jtos" wailing, mournful," etc. 
Good cases maybe taken from a curious modern dialect with a 
strong propensity to the use of obvious sound-words, the 
Chinook Jargon of North- West America. Here we find adopted 
from an Indian dialect the verb to Jdsh-kish, that is, "to drive 
cattle or horses " ; humm stands for the word " stink," verb or 
noun ; and the laugh, heehee, becomes a recognized term 
meaning fun or amusement, as in mamook heehee, " to amuse " 
{i. e., "to make heehee'') and heehee house, "a tavern." In. 
Hawaii, aa is "to insult;" in the Tonga Islands, ui ! is at 
once the exclamation " fie ! " and the verb " to cry out against." 
In New Zealand, he! is an interjection denoting surprise at a 
mistake, M as a noun or verb meaning " error, mistake, to err, 
to go astray." In the Quiche language of Guatemala, the 
verbs ay, oy, hoy, express the idea of "to call" in different 
ways. In the Carajas language of Brazil, we may guess an 


interjectional origin in the adjective ei, "sorrowful" (compare 
Coptic eidio, "to wear a sorrowful countenance"); while we 
can scarcely fail to see a derivation from expressive sound in 
the Yerh hai-hcd "to run away" (compare the word aie-aie, 
used to mean "an omnibus" in modern French slang). The 
Camacan Indians, when they wish to express the notion of 
"much" or "many," hold out their fingers and say /li. As 
this is an ordinary savage gesture expressing multitude, it 
seems likely that the hi is a mere interjection, requiring the 
visible sign to convey the full meaning.^ In the Quichua 
language of Peru, alalau 1 is an interjection of complaint at 
cold, whence the verb cdalauftini, "to complain of the cold." At 
the end of each strophe of the Peruvian hymns to the Sun was 
sung the triumphant exclamation haylli ! and with this sound 
are connected the verbs hayllini " to sing," liayllicuni, " to 
celebrate a victory." The Zulu halala ! of exultation, which 
becomes also a verb " to shout for joy," has its analogues in the 
Tibetan alala ! of joy, and the Greek aXaXa, which is used as a 
noun meaning the battle-cry and even the onset itself, aAaAd^co, 
"to raise the war-cry," Hebrew hdlal, " to sing praise," whence 
hallelujah ! a word which the believers in the theory that the 
Red Indians were the Lost Tribes naturally recognized in the 
native medicine-man's chant of hi-le-li-lah ! The Zulu makes 
his panting ha I do duty as an expression of heat, when he 
says that the hot weather "says ha ha'' ; his way of pitching a 
song by a ha ! ha ! is apparently represented in the verb hay a, 
"to lead a song," hayo "a starting song, a fee given to the 
singing-leader for the hay a''; and his interjectional expression 
ba ha I "as when one smacks his lips from a bitter taste," 
becomes a verb -root meaning " to be bitter or sharp to the 
taste, to prick, to smart." The Galla language gives some good 
examples of interjections passing into words, as where the 
verbs hirr-djeda (to say hrr !) and hirefada (to make hrr !) 
have the meaning " to be afraid." Thus o ! being the usual 
answer to a call, and also a cry to drive cattle, there are formed 

^ Compare, in the same district, Came u, Cotoxo Iiiehie, euJiidhid, multus, 
-a, -urn. 


from it by the addition of verbal terminations, the verbs oada^ 
*^to answer/' and of a, "to drive." 

The capabilities of an interjection in modifyiDg words, when 
language chooses to avail itself thoroughly of them, may be 
seen in the treatment of this same interjection o ! in the 
Japanese grammar.^ It is used before substantives as a prefix 
of honour; couni, "country," thus becoming ocouizi. When a 
man is talking to his superiors, he puts o before the names of 
all objects belonging to them, while these superiors drop the o 
in speaking of an3^thing of their own, or an inferior's ; among 
the higher classes, persons of equal rank put o before the 
names of each other's things, but not before their own ; it is 
polite to say o before the names of all women, and well-bred 
children are distinguished from little peasants by the way in 
which they are careful to put it even before the nursery names 
of father and mother, o toto, o caca, which correspond to the 
papa and mama of Europe. The o is also used to convey a 
distinct notion of eminence, and even to distinguish the male 
gender from the female ; as o rn'ma, a horse, from mx Tn'ma, a 
mare. A distinction is made in written language between o, 
which is pat to anything royal, and oo (pronounced o-o, not ll) 
which means great, as may be instanced in the use of the 
word nnets'ke, or "spy," (literally "eye-fixer") ; o Tnets'ke is a 
princely or imperial spy, while oo mets'ke is the spy in chief. 
This interjectional adjective oo, great, is usually prefixed to the 
name of the capital city, which it is customary to call oo Yedo 
in speaking to one of its inhabitants, or when officials talk of it 
among themselves. And lastly, the o of honour is prefixed to 
verbs in all their forms of conjugation, and it is polite to say 
ominahai matse, "please to see," instead of the mere plebeian 
viinahai Tnatse. Now the slightest consideration shows that 
an English child of six years old would at once understand 
these formations ; and if we do not thus incorporate in our 
PTammar the o .' of admiration and reverential embarrassment, 
it is merely because we have not chosen to take advantage of 
this rudimentary means of expression. Another closely allied 

^ J. H. Donker Curtius, 'Essai de Grammaire Japonaise,' p. 34, etc. 199. 


exclamation, the cry of io ! has taken its place in etymology. 
When added by the German to his cry of " Fire ! " " Murder ! " 
Feuerio ! Mordio ! it remains indeed as mere an interjection as 
the / in our street cries of " Pease-o / " " Dust-o / " or the d ! in 
old German wafend ! "to arms!" hilfd! "help!" But the 
Iroquois of North America makes a fuller use of his materials, 
and carries his io ! of admiration into the very formation of 
compound words, adding it to a noun to say that it is beautiful 
or good : thus, in Mohawk, garonta means a tree, garontio a 
beautiful tree ; in like manner, Ohio means " river-beautiful : " 
and Ontario, " hill-rock-beautiful," is derived in the same way. 
When, in the old times of the French -occupation of Canada, 
there was sent over a Governor-General of New France, Mon- 
sieur de Montmagny, the Iroquois rendered his name from their 
word ononte, "mountain," translating him into Onontio, or 
" Great Mountain," and thus it came to pass that the name of 
Onontio was handed down long after, like that of Caesar, as the 
title of each succeeding governor, while for the King of France 
was reserved the yet higher style of "the great Onontio." ■'• 

The quest of interjectional derivations for sense-words is apt 
to lead the etymologist into very rash speculations. One of his 
best safeguards is to test forms supposed to be interjectional, 
by ascertaining whether anything similar has come into use in 
decidedly distinct languages. For instance, among the familiar 
sounds which fall on the traveller's ear in Spain is the mule- 
teer's cry to his beasts, arre ! arre ! From this interjection, a 
family of Spanish words are reasonably supposed to be derived ; 
the verb arrear, " to drive mules," arriero, the name for the 
" muleteer " himself, and so fort>h.^ Now is this arre ! itself a 
genuine interjectional sound ? It seems likely to be so, for 
Captain Wilson found it in use in the Pelew Islands, where the 
paddlers in the canoes were kept up to their work by crying to 
them arree ! o.rree ! Similar interjections are noticed elsewhere. 

^ Bruyas, 'Mohawk Lang.' p. 16, in Smithson. Contr. vol. iii. Schoolcraft, 
'Indian Tribes,' Part iii. p. 328, 502, 507. Charlevoix, 'Noiiv. France,' vol. i., 
p. 350. 

2 The arre ! may have been introduced into Europe by the Moors, as it is used 
in Arabic, and its use in Europe corresponds nearly with the limits of the 
Moorish conquest, in Spain arre I in Provence arri! 


with a sense of mere affirmation, as in an Australian dialect 
where a-ree ! is set clown as meaning " indeed/' and in the 
Quichua language where ari ! means " yes ! " whence the verb 
arim, " to affirm." Two other cautions are desirable in such 
enquiries. These are, not to travel too far from the absolute 
meaning expressed by the interjection, unless there is strong 
corroborative evidence, and not to override ordinary etymology 
by treating derivative words as though they were radical. 
Without these checks, even sound j^rinciple breaks down in 
application, as the following two examples may show. It is 
quite true that Nm ! is a common interjectional call, and that 
the Dutch have made a verb of it, hemmen, " to hem after a 
person." We may notice a similar call in West Africa, in the 
mma ! which is translated " hallo ! stop ! " in the language of 
Fernando Po. But to apply this as a derivation for German 
hemmen, " to stop, check, restrain," to hem in, and even to the 
Jie'ni of a garment, as Mr. Wedgwood does without even a per- 
haps,^ is travelling too far beyond the record. Again, it is quite 
true that sounds of clicking and smacking of the lips are com- 
mon expressions of satisfaction all over the world, and words 
may be derived from these sounds, as where a vocabulary of the 
Chinook language of North-West America expresses " good " as 
fk-tok-te, or e-tok-te, sounds which we cannot doubt to be 
derived from such clicking noises, if the words are not in fact 
attempts to write down the very clicks themselves. But it 
does not follow that we may take such words as delicice, deli- 
catus, out of a highly organized language like Latin, and refer 
them, as the same etymologist does, to an interjectional utter- 
ance of satisfaction, dlick P To do this is to ignore altogether the 
composition of v/ords ; we might as well explain Latin dilectus 
or English delight as direct formations from expressive sound. 
In concluding the present topic, two or three groups of words 
maybe brought forward as examples of the application of collected 
evidence from a number of languages, mostly of the lower races. 
The affirmative and negative particles, which bear in language 
such meanings as " yes ! '' " indeed ! " and " no ! " " not/' may have 

1 Wedgwood, * Origin of Language/ p. 92. 

2 Ibid., p. 72. 


their derivations from many different sources. It is thought that 
the Austrahan dialects all belong to a single stock, but so unlike 
are the sounds they use for " no ! " and " yes ! " that tribes are 
actually named from these words as a convenient means of dis- 
tinction. Thus the tribes known as Gureang, Kamilaroi, 
Kogai, Yiolaroi, Waihuun, Wiratlieroi, have their names from 
the words they use for " no/' these being gure, kamil, ko, wol, 
wail, luira, respectively ; and on the other hand the Pikambul 
are said to be so called from their w^ord ^^i/ca, "yes." The de- 
vice of naming tribes, thus invented by the savages of Australia, 
and which perhaps recurs in Brazil in the name of the Coca- 
tapuya tribe (coca " no," tapuycc " man ") is very curious in its 
similarity to the mediaival division of Languq dJoc and Langue 
cVoil, according to the words for " yes ! " which prevailed in 
Southern and Northern France : oc ! is Latin hoc, as we might 
say " that's it ! " while the longer form Jioc illucl was reduced to 
oil ! and thence to oui ! Many other of the words for " yes ! " 
and " no ! " may be sense-words, as, again, the French and Italian 
si! is Latin sic. But on the other hand there is reason to 
think that many of these particles in use in various languages 
are not sense-words, but sound-words of a purely interjectional 
kind ; or, what comes nearly to the same thing, a feeling of fit- 
ness of the sound to the meaning may have affected the choice 
and shaping of sense-words — a remark of large application in 
such enquiries as the present. It is an old suggestion that the 
primitive sound of such words as own is a nasal interjection of 
doubt or dissent.^ It corresponds in sound with the visible 
gesture of closing the lips, while a vowel-interjection, with or 
without aspiration, belongs rather to open-mouthed utterance. 
Whether from this or some other cause, there is a remarkable 
tendency among most distant and various languages of the 
world, on the one hand to use vowel-sounds, with soft or hard 
breathing, to express " yes ! " and on the other hand to use nasal 
consonants to express " no ! " The affirmative form is much the 
commoner. The guttural i-i ! of the West Australian, the ee / of 
the Darien, the cc-ah ! of the Clallam, the e .' of the Yakama 

^ Do Brosses, vol. i. p. 203. See "Wedgwood, 


Indians, the e ! of the Basuto, and the ai ! of the Kanuri, are 
some examples of a wide group of forms, of which the foUowino* 
are only part of those noted down in Polynesian and South 
American districts — ii ! e ! ia ! aio ! io ! ya ! ey ! etc., h' ! 
heh ! he-e ! hu ! Jioehah I ah-ha ! etc. The idea has most 
weight where pairs of words for " yes ! '' and " no ! " are found 
both conforming. Thus in the very suggestive description by 
Dobrizhoffer among the Abipones of South America, for " yes ! " 
the men and youths say hee ! the women say had ! and the old 
men give a grunt ; while for " no " they all say yna ! and make 
the loudness of the sound indicate the strength of the negation. 
Dr. Martius's collection of vocabularies of Brazilian tribes, philo- 
logically very distinct, contains several such pairs of affirmatives 
and negatives, the equivalents of " yes ! " — "no!" being in Tupi 
aye ! — aan ! aani ! ; in Guato ii I — man ! ; in Jumana a^ae 1 
— mdiu ! ; in Miranha lia u ! — nani I The Quichua of Peru 
affirms by y ! hu ! and expresses "no," "not," "not at all," by avia ! 
maoian ! etc., making from the latter the verb inanamili, " to 
deny." The Quiche of Guatemala has e or ve for the affirmative, 
Tna, 7}ia7i, mana, for the negative. In Africa, again, the Galla 
language has ee ! for " yes ! " and hn, hin, /im, for " not ! " ; the 
Fernandian ee ! for " yes ! " and 'nt for " not ;" while the Coptic 
dictionary gives the affirmative (Latin " sane ") as eie, ie, and the 
negative by a long list of nasal sounds such as an, emmen, en, 
mvin, etc. The Sanskrit particles hi ! " indeed, certainly," na, 
" not," exemplify similar forms in Indo-European languages, 
down to our aye ! and no ! ^ There must be some meaning in 
all this, for otherwise I could hardly have noted down inci- 
dentally, without making any attempt at a general search, so 
many cases from such different languages, only finding a com- 
paratively small number of contradictory cases.^ 

De Brosses maintained that the Latin stare, to stand, might 
be traced to an origin in expressive sound. He fancied he 

^ Also Oraon hae — ambo ; Micmac e — mw. 

2 A double contradiction in Carib anhan/='* yes I" OMa/="no!" Single 
contradictions in Catoquina hang! Tupi eem ! Botocudo hemhem! Yoruba 
en! for "yes!" Ciilino aiy ! Australian yo ! for "no!" &c. How much 
these sounds depend on peculiar intonation, we, who habitually use Km I either 
for " yes ! " or "no ! " can well understand. 


could hear in it an organic radical sign designating fixity, and 
could thus explain why st ! should be used as a call, to make a 
man stand still. Its connexion with these sounds is often 
spoken of in more modern books, and one imaginative German 
philologer describes their origin among primeval men as vividly 
as though he had been there to see. A man stands beckoning 
in vain to a companion who does not see him, till at last " his 
effort relieves itself by the help of the vocal nerves, and in- 
voluntarily there breaks from him the sound st ! Now the 
other hears the sound, turns towards it, sees the beckoning 
gesture, knows that he is called to stop ;" and when this has 
happened again and again, the action comes to be described in 
common talk by uttering the now familiar st ! and thus sta 
becomes a root, the symbol of the abstract idea to stand !^ This 
is a most ingenious conjecture, but unfortunately nothing more. 
It would be at any rate strengthened, though not established, if 
its supporters could prove that the st ! used to call people iu 
Germany, ps^ ! in Spain, is itself a pure interjectional sound. 
Even this, hov/ever, has never been made out. The call has not 
yet been shown to be in use outside our own Indo-European 
family of languages ; and so long as it is only found in use 
within these limits, an opponent might even plausibly claim it 
as an abbreviation of the very s^a .' ("stay! stop!") for which 
the theory proposes it as an origin.- 

That it is not unfair to ask for fuller evidence of a sound 
being purely interjectional than its appearance in a single 
family of languages, may be shown by examining another group 
of interjections, which are found among the remotest tribes, and 

* (Charles de Brosses) ' Traits de la Formation Mecanique des Langues,' etc. 
Paris. An ix., vol. i. p. 238 ; vol. ii. p. 313. Lazarus and Steinthal, 
'Zeitschrift fiir Volkerpsychologie,' etc., vol. i. p. 421. Heyse, * System der 
Sprachwissenschaft,' p. 73. Farrar, 'Chapters on Language,' p. 202. 

2 Similar sounds are used to command silence, to stop speaking as well as to 
stop going. English hushtl whist/ hist! Welsh ust! French chut! Italian 
zitto ! Swedish tyst ! Russian st' ! and the Latin st ! so well described in the 
curious old line quoted by Mr. Farrar, which compares it with the gesture of the 
finger on the lips : — 

" Jsis, et Harpocrates digito qui significat st ! " 

This group of interjections, again, has not been proved to be in outside 
Aryan limits. 

VOL. I. N 


thus have really considerable claims to rank among the primary 
sounds of language. These are the simple sibilants, s ! sh ! 
h'sh ! used especially to scare birds, and among men to express 
aversion or call for silence. Catlin describes a party of Sioux 
Indians, when they came to the portrait of a dead chief, each 
putting his hand over his mouth with a hush-sh ! and when he 
himself wished to approach the sacred " medicine " in a Mandan 
lodge, he was called to refrain by the same Jacsh-sh ! Among 
ourselves the sibilant interjection passes into two exactly oppo- 
site senses, according as it is meant to put the speaker himself to 
silence, or to command silence for him to be heard ; and thus 
we find the sibilant used elsewhere, sometimes in the one way 
and sometimes in the other. Among the wild Veddahs of 
Ceylon, iss ! is an exclamation of disapproval, as in ancient or 
modern Europe ; and the verb shdrak, to hiss, is used in Hebrew 
with a like sense, " they shall hiss him out of his place." But 
in Japan reverence is expressed by a hiss, commanding silence. 
Captain Cook remarked that the natives of the New Hebrides 
expressed their admiration by hissing like geese. Casalis says 
of the Basutos, " Hisses are the most unequivocal marks of 
applause, and are as much courted in the African parliaments 
as they are dreaded by our candidates for popular favour." ^ 
Among other sibilant interjections, are Turkish sllsd ! Ossetic 
ss! sos! "silence!" Fernandian sia! "listen ! " "tush ! " Yoruba 
sio ! "pshaw!" Thus it appears that these sounds, far from 
being special to one linguistic family, are very wide-spread ele- 
ments of human speech. Nor is there any question as to their 
passage into fully-formed words, as in our verb to hush, which 
has passed into the senses of " to quiet, put to sleep " (" as hush 
as death"), metaphorically to hush up a matter, Greek o-tfio 
"to hush, say hush ! command silence." Even Latin silere and 
Gothic silan, " to be silent," may with some plausibility be ex- 
plained as derived from the interjectional si of silence. 

1 Catlin, 'North American Indians,' vol. i. pp. 221, 39, 151, 162. Bailey in 
'Tr. Etli. Soc.,' vol. ii. p. 318. Job xxvii. 23. (The verb shdrak also signifies to 
call by a hiss, " and he will hiss unto them from the end of the earth, and behold, 
they shall come with speed," Is. v. 20 ; Jer. xix. 8.) Alcock, *The Capital of 
the Tycoon,' vol. i. p. 394. Cook, '2nd Voy.,' vol. ii. p. 36. Casalis, ' Basutos,' 
p. 234. 


Sanskrit dictionaries recognize several words which explicitly 
state their own interjectional derivation : such are liunkdra 
(/mm-making), " the utterance of the mystic religious exclama- 
tion hum/ " and cicgahda (cip-sound), " a hiss." Beside these 
obvious formations, the interjectional element is present to some 
more or less degree in the list of Sanskrit radicals, which repre- 
sent probably better than those of any other language the verb- 
roots of the ancient Aryan stock. In ru, "to roar, cr}^, wail," and 
inJcakh, " to laugh," w^e have the simpler kind of interjectional 
derivation, that which merely describes a sound. As to the more 
difficult kind, which carry the sense into a new stage, Mr. Wedg- 
wood makes out a strong case for the connexion of interjections 
of loathing and aversion, such as j^ooJi f fief etc., with that large 
group of words which are represented in English hj foul and 
fiend, in Sanskrit by the verbs piiy, " to become foul, to stink," 
and piy, "piy, "to revile, to hate." ^ Further evidence may be 
here adduced in support of this theory. The languages of the 
lower races use the sound pit to express an evil smell : the Zulu 
remarks that "the meat says pu'' (inyama it i p^^), meaning 
that it stinks ; the Timorese has i^odp "putrid;" the Quiche 
language has puh, poh " corruption, pus," pohir " to turn bad, 
rot," puz " rottenness, what stinks ; " the Tupi word for nasty, 
p)uxi, may be compared with the Latin putidics, and the Co- 
lumbia River name for the " skunk," o-puu-pun, with similar 
names of stinking animals, Sanskrit putikd " civet-cat," and 

^ Wedgwooi.l, ' Origin of Language,' p. S3, 'Dictionary,' Introd. p. xiii. and s. v. 
" fonl." Prof. Max Mliller, ' Lectures,' 2nd series, p. 92, protests against the in- 
discriminate derivation of words directly from such cries and interjections, without 
the intervention of determinate roots. As to the present topic, he points out 
that Latin ^>a5, piUridus, Gothic f ids, Englisli/oi^Z, follow Grimm's law as if words 
derived from a single root. Admitting this, however, the question has to be 
raised, how far pure interjections and their direct derivatives, being self-expres- 
sive and so to speak living sounds, are affected by phonetic changes such as that 
of Grimm's law, which act on articulate sounds no longer fully expressive in 
themselves, but handed down by mere tradition. Thus p and / occur in one 
and the same dialect in interjections of disgust and aversion, ^;?Ji/ and ft/ 
being iised in Venice or Paris, just as similar sounds would be in London. In 
tracing this group of Avords from early Aryan forms, it must also be noticed that 
Sanskrit is a very imperfect guide, for its alphabet has no /, and it can hardly 
give the rule in this matter to languages possessing both 2J ^nd/, and thus capable 
of nicer appreciation of this class of interjections. 

N 2 


French jyatois "pole-cat." From the French interjection -fl! 
words have long been formed belonging to the language, if not 
authenticated by the Academy ; hi mediseval French ' maistre 
fi-fi' was a recognized term for a scavenger, and fi-fi books^ 
are not yet extinct. 

There has been as yet, unfortunately, too much separation 
between what may be called generative philology, which ex- 
amines into the ultimate origins of words, and historical phi- 
lology, which traces their transmission and change. It will be 
a great gain to the science of language to bring these two 
branches of enquiry into closer union, even as the processes they 
relate to have been going on together since the earliest days of 
speech. At present the historical philologists of the school of 
Grimm and Bopp, whose great work has been the tracing of 
our Indo-European dialects to an early Aryan form of language, 
have had much the advantage in fulness of evidence and strict- 
ness of treatment. At the same time it is evident that the 
views of the generative philologists, from De Brosses onward, 
embody a sound principle, and that much of the evidence col- 
lected as to emotional and other directly expressive v/ords, is of 
the highest value in the argument. But in working out the 
details of such word-formation, it must be remembered that no- 
department of philology lies more open to Augustine's caustic 
remark on the etymologists of his time, that like the interpre- 
tation of dreams, the derivation of words is set down by each 
man according to his OAvn fancy. (Ut somniorum interpretatio- 
ita verborum origo pro cnjusque ingenio prsedicatur.) 



Imitative AVords — Human actions named from sound — Animals' names from 
cries, etc. — Musical instruments — Sounds reproduced — Words modified to 
adapt sound to sense — Reduplication — Graduation of vowels to express 
distance and difference— Children's Language— Sound-Avords as related to 
Sense-words — Language an original product of the lower Culture. 

From the earliest times of language to our own day, it is 
unlikely that men ever quite ceased to be conscious that some 
of their words were derived from imitation of the common 
sounds heard about them. In our own modern English, for 
instance, results of such imitation are evident ; flies buzz, bees 
huin, snakes hiss, a cracker or a bottle of ginger-beer pops, a 
cannon or a bittern Looms. In the words for animals and for 
musical instruments in the various languages of the world, the 
imitation of their cries and tones is often to be plainly heard, 
as in the names of the Jioopoe, the ai-ai sloth, the kaka parrot, 
the Eastern toTntom, which is a drum, the African ulule, whicli 
is a flute, the Siamese khong-boncj, which is a v/ooden harmoni- 
con, and so on through a host of other words. But these evi- 
dent cases are far from representing the whole effects of imita- 
tion on the growth of language. They form, indeed, the easy 
entrance to a philological region, Avhich becomes less penetrable 
the farther it is explored. 

The operations of which we see the results before us in the 
actual languages of the world seem to have been somewhat as 
follows. Men have imitated their own emotional utterances or 
interjections, the cries of animals, the tones of musical instru- 
ments, the sounds of shouting, howling, stamping, breaking, 
tearing, scraping, and so forth, which are all day coming to their 


ears, and out of these imitations man}' words of language indis- 
putably have their source. But these words, as we find them 
in use, differ often Avidely, often beyond all recognition, from 
the original sounds they sprang from. In the first place, man's 
voice can only make a very rude copy of most sounds his ear 
receives ; his j)ossible vowels are very limited in their range 
compared with natural tones, and his possible consonants still 
more helpless as a means of imitating natural noises. More- 
over, his voice is only allowed to use a part even of this imper- 
fect imitative power, seeing that each language for its own con- 
venience restricts it to a small number of set vowels and con- 
sonants, to which the imitative sounds have to conform, thus 
becoming conventionalized into articulate words with further 
loss of imitative accuracy. No class of words have a more per- 
fect imitative origin than those which simply profess to be vocal 
imitations of sound. How ordinary alphabets to some extent 
succeed and to some extent fail in writing down these sounds 
may be judged from a few examples. Thus, the Australian 
imitation of a spear or bullet striking is given as toop ; to the 
Zulu, when a calabash is beaten, it says boo ; the Karens hear the 
flitting ghosts of the dead call in the wailing voice of the wind, 
re re, to to ; the old traveller, Pietro della Valle, tells how the 
Shah of Persia sneered at Timur and his Tatars, with their 
arrows that went teT ter ; certain Buddhist heretics maintained 
that water is alive, because when it boils it says chichitd, 
chiticJdta, a symptom of vitality which occasioned much theo- 
logical controversy as to drinking cold and warm water. Lastly, 
sound-words taken up into the general inventory of a language 
have to follow its organic changes, and in the course of phonetic- 
transition, combination, decay, and mutilation, to lose ever more 
and more of their original shape. To take a single example, 
the French hueT " to shout " (Welsh Inva) may be a perfect 
imitative verb ; yet when it passes into modern English line and 
cry, our changed pronunciation of the vowel destroys all imita- 
tion of the call. Now to the language-makers all this was of 
little account. They merely wanted recognized words to exjoress 
recognized thoughts, and no doubt arrived by repeated trials at 
systems which were found practically to answer this pur^DOse. 


But to the modern philologist, who is attempting to work out 
the converse of the problem, and to follow backward the course 
of words to original imitative sound, the difficulty is most 
embarrassing. It is not only that thousands of words really 
derived from such imitation may now by successive change 
have lost all safe traces of their history ; such mere deficiency 
of knowledge is only a minor evil. What is far worse is that 
the way is thrown open to an unlimited number of false solu- 
tions, which yet look on the face of them fully as like truth as 
others which we know historically to be true. One thing is 
clear, that it is of no use to resort to violent means, to rush in 
among the words of language, explaining them away right and 
left as derived each from some remote application of an imita- 
tive noise. The advocate of the Imitative Theory who attempts 
this, trusting in his own powers of discernment, has indeed 
taken in hand a perilous task, for, in fact, of all judges of the 
question at issue, he has nourished and trained himself up to 
become the very worst. His imagination is ever suggesting to 
him what his judgment would like to find true ; like a witness 
answering the questions of the counsel on his own side, he 
answers in good faith, but with what bias we all know. It was 
thus with De Brosses, to w^hom this department of philology 
owes so much. It is nothing to say that he had a keen ear for 
the voice of Nature ; she must have positively talked to him in 
alphabetic language, for he could hear the sound of hollowness 
in the sk of a-Ka-nTaa " to dig," of hardness in the cal of callosity 
the noise of insertion of a body between two others in the tr of 
trans, intra. In enquiries so liable to misleading fancy, no 
pains should be spared in securing impartial testimony, and it 
fortunately happens that there are available sources of such 
evidence, which, when thoroughly worked, will give to the 
theory of imitative words as near an approach to accuracy as 
has been attained to in any other wide philological problem. 
By comparing a number of languages, widely apart in their 
general systems and materials, and whose agreement as to the 
words in question can only be accounted for by similar forma- 
tion of words from similar suggestion of sound, we obtain groups 
of words whose imitative character is indisputable. The groups 


here considered consist in general of imitative words of the 
simpler kind, those directly connected with the special sound 
they are taken from, but their examination to some extent 
admits of words being brought in, where the connexion of the 
idea expressed with the sound imitated is more remote. This, 
lastly, opens the far wider and more difficult problem, how far 
imitation of sounds is the primary cause of the great mass of 
words in the vocabularies of the world, between whose sound and 
sense no direct connexion exists. 

Words which express human actions accompanied with sound 
form a very large and intelligible class. In remote and most 
different languages, we find such forms as pu, 'piif, hu, huf, f%i, 
fnf, in use with the meaning of jpufing, fuffing, or blowing ; 
Malay puput ; Tongan buhi; Maori pujoui; Australian ho- 
hun, hwa-bun ; Galla huf a, afufa ; Zulu futa, punga, "piipiiza 
(/u, pu, used as expressive particles) ; Q}x\c]\q puha ; Quichua^^^u- 
liuni ; Tupi ypeu ; Finnish puliJcia ; Hebrew puacJi ; Danish 
puste ; Lithuanian _pz^m6 ; and in numbers of other languages;-^ 
here, grammatical adjuncts apart, the significant force lies in 
the imitative syllable. Savages have named the European 
musket when they saw it, by the sound pu, describing not the 
report but the "puff of smoke issuing from the muzzle. The 
Society Islanders supposed at first that the white men blew 
through the barrel of the gun, and they called it accordingly 
pupuhi, from the verb piihi to blow, while the New Zealanders 
more simply called it a pu. So the Amaxosa of South Africa call 
it umpu, from the imitative sound ^u ! The Chinook Jargon of 
North West America uses the phrase Tnmnooh poo (make^^^oo) 
for a verb " to shoot," and a six-chambered revolver is called 
tohwni poo, i. e., a '' six-poo." When a European uses the word 
puff to denote the discharge of a gun, he is merely using the 
same imitative word for blowing which describes a j^'^ff of wind, 
or even a -powder-puff or a j^tf^-ball ; and when a pistol is called 
in colloquial German a puffer, the meaning of the word matches 
that used for it in French Argot, a "soufflant." It has often been 
supposed that the puff imitates the actual sound, the hang of 

* Mpongwe punjina ; Basuto foica ; Carib pliouhde ; Arawac ai^pildiln (ignem 
sufflare). Other cases are given by Wedgwood, ' Or. of Lang.,' p. S3. 


the gun, and this has been brought forward to show by what 
extremely different words one and the same sound may be imi- 
tated, but this is a mistake.^ These derivations of the name 
of the gun from the notion of blowing correspond with those 
which give names to the comparatively noiseless blow-tube of 
the bird-hunter, called by the Indians of Yucatan a jpuh, in 
South America by the Chiquitos a piccuna, by the Cocamas a 
jm-na. Looking into vocabularies of languages which have 
such verbs " to blow," it is usual to find with them other words 
apparently related to them, and expressing more or less distant 
ideas. Thus Australian i^oo-yu, iDuyii " smoke ; " Quichua 
puhucicni "to light a fire," punquini "to swell," jpuyu, 
pukuyio " a cloud ; " Maori puku " to pant," 2^uka " to swell ; " 
Tupi pupu, pupure "to boil;" Galla hiibe "wind," hitbiza "to 
cool by blowing;" Kanuri (root fu) fungin "to blow, swell," 
fuTudib " a stuffed pad or bolster," etc., huhute " bellows " 
(huhute fungin " I blow the bellows ") ; Zulu (dropping the 
prefixes) puku, pukupu " frothing, foam," whence pukicpuku 
"an empty frothy fellow," p)upiiina "to bubble, boil," fu "a 
cloud," fumfu "blown about like high grass in the wind," 
whence fiiTYifuta " to be confused, thrown into disorder," futo 
" bellows," /z( 6a "the breast, chest," thence figuratively "bosom, 

The group of words belonging to the closed lips, of which 
"nrnrni, WArnvming, mumble are among the many forms belong- 
ing to European languages,^ are worked out in like manner 
among the lower races — Vei mu mu "dumb"; Mpongwe imamu 
"dumb" ; Zulu mom^ata (from moma, "amotion with the mouth 
as in mumbling") "to move the mouth or lips," onuviata "to close 
the lips as with a mouthful of water," mumuta muniuza "to eat 
mouthfuls of corn, etc., with the lips shut ;" Tahitian maonu 
" to be silent," omunnu " to murmur ;" Fijian, nomo, nonio- 
nfiomo "to be silent ;" Chilian, noTYin "to be silent;" Quiche, 
mem "mute," whence member "to become mute;" Quichua, 
am,u " dumb, silent," am^ullini " to have something in the 
mouth, amullayacuni simicta " to mutter, grumble." The 

^ See AVccIg\vood, Die, s. v. "mum," etc. 


group represented by Sanskrit t'hutliiX " the sound of spitting," 
Persian tliu herdan (make tliii) "to spit/' Greek Trruco, may be 
compared with Chinook mamooJc toll, took (make toh, took) ; 
Chilian tuvcutun (make tuv) ; Tahitian tutua ; Galla twu; 
Yoruba tu. Among the Sanskrit verb-roots, none carries its imita- 
tive nature more plainly than kshu " to sneeze ;" the following 
analogous forms are from South America: — Chilian, ecJiiun; 
Quichua, acJiliini; and from various languages of Brazilian tribes, 
techa-ai, haitschu, atchian, natschiin, ariiischitne, etc. Another 
imitative verb is well shown in the Neofro-Enorlish dialect of 
Surinam, njaon " to eat " (pron. nyam), njam-vjcon '• food " 
(" en hem njanjavi ben de sprinkhan nanga boesi-honi" — 
"and his meat was locusts and wild honey"). In Australia the 
imitative verb "to eat " re-appears Sisg'nam-ang. In Africa, the 
Susu language has nimnini, " to taste," and a similar formation 
is observed in the Zulu namhita " to smack the lips after 
eating or tasting, and thence to be tasteful, to be pleasant to 
the mind." This is an excellent instance of the transition of 
mere imitative somid to the expression of mental emotion, and 
it p'^rresponds with the imitative way in which the Yakama 
language, in speaking of little children or pet animals, expresses 
the verb "to love " as oiem-oio-sJici (to make n'm-n'). In more 
civilized countries these forms are mostly confined to baby-lan- 
guage. The Chinese child's word for eating is nam, in English 
nurseries oiim is noticed as answering the same purpose, and 
the Swedish dictionary even recognizes namnam "a tid-bit." 

As for imitative names of animals derived from their cries 
or noises, they are to be met with in every language, from the 
Australian Uuonlc " frog," the Yakama rol-rol " lark," to the 
Coptic eeio " ass," the Chinese onaou " cat," and the English 
cuckoo and peewit. Their general principle of formation being 
acknowledged, their further philological interest turns mostly 
on cases where corresponding words have thus been formed 
independently in distant regions, and those where the imitative 
name of the creature, or its habitual sound, passes to express 
some new idea suggested by its character. The Sanskrit name 
of the kdka crow re-appears in the name of a similar bird in 
British Columbia, the kdh-kah ; a fly is called by the natives of 


Australia a hiimheroo, like Sanskrit hamhhardU "a fly/' Greek 
ftoixjivkios, and our humhle-hee. Analogous to the name of the 
tse-tse, the terror of African travellers, is ntsintsi, the word for 
" a fly " among the Basutos, which also, by a simple metaphor, 
serves to express the idea of '' a parasite." Mr. H. W. Bates's 
description seems to settle the dispute among naturalists, 
whether the toucan had its name from its cry or not. He 
speaks of its loud, shrill, yelping cries having "a vague re- 
semblance to tlie svllables tocdiio, toe no , and hence the Indian 
name of this genus of birds. Granting this, we can trace this 
sound-word into a very new meaning ; for it appears that the 
bird's monstrous bill has suggested a name for a certain large- 
nosed tribe of Indians, who are accordingly called the Tucanos} 
The cock, gallo quiquiriqiii, as the Spanish nursery-language 
calls him, has a long list of names from various languages 
which in various ways imitate his crowing ; in Yoruba he is 
called JcoJclo, in Ibo okoico, ahoha, in Zulu huku, in Finnish 
kukho, in Sanskrit kukkuta, and so on. He is mentioned in 
the Zend-Avesta in a very curious way, by a name which ela- 
borately imitates his cry, but which the ancient Persians seem 
to have held disrespectful to their holy bird, who rouses men 
from sleep to good thought, word, and work : — 

" The bird who bears the name of Parodars, holy Zarathustra ; 
Upon whom eyil-speaking men impose the name Kahrkatac.^^ ^ 

The crowing of the cock (Malay kcUitruk, kukuk) serves to 
mark a point of time, cockcrow. Other words originally derived 
from such imitation of crowing have passed into other curiously 
transformed meanings: Old French cocart '"'vain;" modern 
French coquet "strutting like a cock, coquetting, a coxcoTnh;'' 
cocarde "a cockade'' (from its likeness to a cock's comb); one of 
the best instances is coquelicot, a name given for the same reason 
to the wild poppy, and even more distinctly in Languedoc, 
where cacaracd means both the crowing and the flower. The 
lien in some languages has a name corresponding to that of the 
cock, as in Kussa kukiuluncc "cock," kukukasi "hen]'' Ewe 

^ Bates, 'Naturalist on the Amazons,' 2nd ed., p. 404; Markham in * Tr. 
Eth. Soc.,' vol. iii. p. 143. 
- 'Avesta,' Farrj. xviii. 31-5. 


IcoJdo-tsu "cock," JcoJdo-no "hen;" and her cackle (whence 
she has in Switzerland the name of gugel, gilggel) has passed 
into language as a term for idle gossip and chatter of women, 
caquet, caquetcr, gackern, much as the noise of a very different 
creature seems to have given rise not only to its name, Italian 
ciccda, but to a group of words represented by cicalar "to, 
chirp, chatter, talk sillily." The j^igeon is a good example of 
this kind, both for sound and sense. It is Latin ]pipio, Italian 
IDippione, loiccione, pigione, modern Greek -niiiiviovi French 
pipion (old) , pigeon ; its derivation is from the young bird's 
2oee2^, Latin pipire, Italian pjipiare, p>igiolare, modern Greek 
ttlttlvlCcjo, to chirp ; by an easy metaphor, a pigeon comes to 
mean "a silly young fellow easily caught," to pigeon "to 
cheat," Italian pipione " a silly gull, one that is soon caught 
and trepanned," pippionave " to pigeon, to gull one." In an 
entirely different family of languages, Mr. Wedgwood points 
out a curiously similar process of derivation ; Magyar pipegni, 
pipelni " to peep or cheep ;" pipe, pipok " a chicken, gosling ;" 
pipe-eTnher (chicken-man), " a silly young fellow, booby." ^ The 
derivation of Greek fiovs, Latin hos, Welsh hu, from the ox's 
lowing, or booing as it is called in the north country, has been 
much debated. With an excessive desire to make Sanskrit 
answer as a general Indo-European type, Bopp connected Sans- 
krit go, old German chuo, English coiu, with these words, on the 
unusual and forced assumption of a change from guttural to 
labial.^ The direct derivation from sound, however, is favoured 
by other languages, Cochin-Chinese bo, Hottentot bou. The 
beast may almost answer for himself in the words of that Spanish 
proverb which remarks that people talk according to their 
nature : "Hablo el buey, y dijo bu! " "The ox spoke, and he 
said boo .'" 

Among musical instruments with imitative names are the 
following :-— the shee-shee-quoi, the mystic rattle of the Red 
Indian medicine-man, an imitative word which re-appears in the 
Darien Indian shak-shak, the shook-shook of the Arawaks, the 

* Wedgwood, Die, s. v. "pigeon;" Diez, * Etym. Worterb.,' s. v. "piccione." 
2 Bopp, 'Gloss. Saiiscr.,* s. v. "go." See Pott, ' "VVurzel-Worterb. der^Iiido- 
Germ. Spr.,' s. v. "gn," Zahlmeth., p. 227. 


Chinook shugJi (whence shugh-opoots, rattle-tail, i. e., " rattle- 
snake;") — the drum, called ganga in Haiissa, (/<x%a/i in the 
Yoriiba country, gunguma by the Gal las, and having its ana- 
logue in the Eastern gong ; — the bell, called in Yakama 
(N. 'Amer.) hva-lal-kiua-lal, in Yalof (W. Afr.) wahual, in 
Eussian Icolohol. The sound of the horn is imitated in English 
nurseries as toot-toot, and this is transferred to express the 
'' omnibus " of which the bugle is the signal : with this nursery 
word is to be classed the Peruvian name for the "shell- 
trumpet," initutii, and the Gothic thuthaiirn (thut-horn) , which 
is even used in the Gothic Bible for the last trumpet of the day 
of judgment, — "In spedistin thuthaurna. thuthaurneith auk jah 
dauthans ustandand " (1 Cor. xv. 52). How such imitative 
words, when thoroughly taken up into language, suffer change 
of pronunciation in which the original sound-meaning is lost, 
may be seen in the^English word tabor, which we might not 
recognize as a sound-word at all, did we not notice that it is 
French tahour, a word which in the form tawhour obviously 
belongs to a group of words for drums, extending from the 
small rattling Arabic tubl to the Indian dundhubi and the tomhe, 
the Moqui drum made of a hollowed log. The same group 
shows the transfer of such imitative words to objects which 
are like the instrument, but have nothing to do with its sound ;. 
few people who talk of tambour-wovk, and fewer still who 
speak of a footstool as a tabouret, associate these words with 
the sound of a drum, yet the connexion is clear enough. 
When these tvvo processes go on together, and a sound-word 
changes its original sound on the one hand, and transfers its 
meaning to something else on the other, the result may soon 
leave philological analysis quite helpless, unless by accident 
historical evidence is forthcomino:. Thus with the Ene^lish 
word pipe. Putting aside the particular pronunciation which 
we give the word, and referring it back to its French or medi- 
aeval Latin sound in _25ipe, pipa, we have before us an evident 
imitative name of a musical instrument, derived from a familiar 
sound used also to represent the chirping of chickens, Latin 
pipire, English to peep, as in the translation of Isaiah viii. 
19: "Seek . . . unto wizards that _2^ee^, and that mutter." 


The Algonquin Indians appear to have formed from this sound 
]oib (with a grammatical suffix) their name for the pib-e-gwun 
or native flute. Now just as tuba, tvMis, "a trumpet" (itself ver}^ 
likely an imitative word) has given a name for any kind of 
tube, so the word j^ipe has been transferred from the musical 
instrument to which it first belonged, and is used to describe 
tubes of various sorts, gas-pipes, w^ater-pipes, and pipes in 
general. There is nothing unusual in these transitions of 
meaning, which are in fact rather the rule than the exception. 
The cIdbouJc was originally a herdsman's pipe or flute in Central 
Asia. The calumet, popularly ranked vv^ith the tomahawk and 
the mocassin among characteristic Red Indian words, is only 
the name for a shepherd's pipe (Latin calmnus) in the dialect 
of Normandy, corresponding with the chalu'tneau of literary 
French ; for v/hen the early colonists in Canada saw the Indians 
performing the strange operation of smoking, "with a hollow 
piece of stone or wood like a pipe," as Jacques Cartier has it, 
they merely gave to the native tobacco-pipe the name of the 
French musical instrument it resembled. Now changes of sound 
and of sense like this of the English word j^z^e must have been 
in continual operation in hundreds of languages where we have 
no evidence to follow them by, and where we probably may 
never obtain such evidence. But what little we do know must 
compel us to do justice to the imitation of sound as a really 
existing process, capable of furnishing an indefinitely large 
supply of words for things and actions v/hich have no neces- 
sary connexion at all with that sound. Where the traces of 
the transfer are lost, the result is a stock of words which are 
the despair of philologists, but are perhaps none the less fitted 
for the practical use of men who simply want recognized sym- 
bols for recognized ideas. 

The claim of the Eastern tomitom to have its name from a 
mere imitation of its sound seems an indisputable one ; but 
when we notice in what various languages the beating of a re- 
sounding object is expressed by something like turn, tumb, 
tiimp, tup, as in Javan tiimbuk, Coptic tmno, " to pound in a 
mortar," it becomes evident that the admission involves more 
than at first sight appears. In Malay, timpa, tampa, is "to beat 


out, hammer, forge ; " in tlie Chinook Jargon tum-tuvx is " the 
heart," and by combining the same sound with the English word 
** water," a name is made for " waterfall," tmn-wdta. The 
Gallas of East Africa declare that a box on the ear seems 
to them to make a noise like tub, for they call its sound tuh- 
djeda, that is, "to say tub.'' In the same language, tuma is 
''to beat," whence tumtu, "a workman, especially one who beats, 
a smith." With the aid of another imitative word, hufa " to 
blow," the Gallas can construct this wholly imitative sentence, 
titmtum hufa bufti, " the workman blows the bellows," as an 
English child might say, " the tiiinUmn puffs the puffer^ This 
imitative sound seems to have obtained a footing among the 
Aryan verb-roots, as in Sanskrit tup, tuhh "to smite," while in 
Greek, twp, ^uw/j^, has the meaning of " to beat, to tliumio,'' pro- 
ducing for instance rvjj.-avov, tyonpanum, " sl drum or tomtom.^' 
Again, the verb to crack has become in modern English as tho- 
rough a root-word as the language possesses. The mere imita- 
tion of the sound of breaking has passed into a verb to break ; 
we speak of a cracked cup or a cracked reputation without a 
thought of imitation of sound ; but we cannot yet use the 
German krachen or French craquer in this way, for they have 
not developed in meaning as our word has, but remain in their 
purely imitative stage. There are two corresponding Sanskrit 
words for the saw, kra-kara, kra-kacha, that is to say, the 
" /u^Or maker, kra-criev ; " and it is to be observed that all such 
terms, which expressly state that they are imitations of sound, 
are particularly valuable evidence in these enquiries, for what- 
ever doubt there may be as to other words being really derived 
from imitated sound, there can, of course, be none here. More- 
over, there is evidence of the same sound having given rise to 
imitative words in other families of language, Dahoman kra- 
kra, "a watchman's rattle;" Grebo grikd "a saw;" Aino 
chacha "to saw ; " Malay graji " a saw," karat " to gnash the 
teeth," karot "to make a grating noise;" Coptic khrij "to 
gnash the teeth," khrajrej " to grated Another form of the 
imitation is given in the descriptive Galla expression cacak- 
djeda, i. e., " to say cacak'' " to crack, krachen!' With this 
sound corresponds a whole family of Peruvian words, of which 


the root seems to be the guttural cca, coming from far back in 
the throat ; ccallani, " to break," ccatatani, " to gnash the 
teeth," ccacniy, " thunder," and the expressive word for " a 
thunderstorm," ccaccaccahay, which carries the imitative pro-. 
cess so much farther than such European words as thunder- 
clap, donneY-Jdapf. In Maori, pata is "to patter as water drop- 
ping, drops of rain." The Manchu language describes the noise 
of fruits falling from the trees as pata pata (so Hindustani 
hhadbhacl) ; this is like our word pat, and we should say in 
the same manner that the fruit comes pattering down, while 
French 'patatra is a recognized imitation of something falling. 
Coptic 2^^ip^ is "to fall," and the Australian hadhadin (or 
patpatin) is translated into almost literal English as pitpat- 
ting. On the strength of such non-Aryan languages, are we 
to assign an imitative origin to the Sanskrit verb-root patj " to 
fall," and to Greek itit:tc» ? 

Wishing rather to gain a clear survey of the princiiDles of 
language-making than to plunge into obscure problems, it is 
not necessary for me to discuss here questions of intricate 
detail. The point which continually arises is this, — granted 
that a particular kind of transition from sound to sense is 
possible in the abstract, may it be safely claimed in a parti- 
cular case ? In looking through the vocabularies of the world,, 
it appears that most languages offer words which, by obvious 
likeliness or by their correspondence with similar forms else- 
where, may put forward a tolerable claim to be considered 
imitative. Some languages, as Aztec or Mohawk, offer singu- 
larly few examples, while in others they are much more nu- 
merous. Take Australian cases : lualle, " to wail ; " hung- 
hung-ween, " ihundex \'' wirriti, "to blow, as wind;" wirrir- 
riti, "to storm, rage, as in fight ;" wirri, hwirri, "the native 
throwing stick," seemingly so called from its wliir through the 
air ; kurarriti, "to hum, buzz ;" kurrirrurriri, "round about, 
unintelligible," etc. ; pitata, " to knock, pelt, as rain," pitapi- 
tata, "to knock;" wiiti, "to laugh, rejoice" — just as in our 
own " Turnament of Tottenham" : — 

" * We te he!' quoth Tyb, and lugh, 
* Ye er a clughty man ! ' " 


The so-called Chinook jargon of British Columbia is a Ian 
guage crowded with imitative words, sometimes adopted from 
the native Indian languages, sometimes made ci the spot by 
the combined efforts of the white man and the Indian to 
make one another understand. Samples of its quality are 
hoh-hoJi, " to cough," ko-ho, " to knock," hiva-laV-kwa-lal, " to 
gallop," TYiuch-a-much, "to eat," chak-chaJc, "the bald eagle'* 
(from its scream), tsish, " a grindstone," maviook tsish (make 
tsisJi), "to sharpen." It has been remarked by Prof. Max 
Miiller that the peculiar sound made in blowing out a candle 
is not a favourite in civilized languages, but it seems to be 
recognized here, for no doubt it is what the compiler of the 
vocabulary is doing his best to write down when he gives 
lyiamook poh (make poh) as the Chinook expression for " to 
blow out or extinguish as a candle." This jargon is in great 
measure of new growth within the last seventy or eighty years, 
but its imitative words do not differ in nature from those of 
the more ordinary and old-established languages of the world. 
Thus among Brazilian tribes there appear Tupi cororong, cu- 
ruTUC, " to snore " (compare Coptic kherkher, Quichua ccorcuni 
{ccor) ), whence it appears that an imitation of a snore may 
perhaps serve the Carajas Indians to express " to sleep " arou- 
rou-cve, as well as the related idea of " night," roou. Again 
Pimenteira ehaung, "to bruise, beat," compares with Yoruba 
gha, "to slap," gba (gbang) "to sound loudly, to bang,'' and so 
forth. Among African languages, the Zulu seems particularly 
rich in imitative words. Thus hihiza, " to dribble like 
children, drivel in speaking " (compare English bib) ; babala, 
" the larger bush-antelope " (from the bacc of the female) ; 
boba, " to babble, chatter, be noisy," bobi, " a babbler ; " 
boboni, " a throstle " (cries bo ! bo ! compare American 
bobolink) ; bomboloza, " to rumble in the bowels, to have 
a bowel-complaint ;" bubula, "to buzz like bees," bubulela, 
" a swarm of bees, a buzzing crowd of people ; " bubuluza, 
" to make a blustering noise, like frothing beer or boiling 
fat." These examples, from among those given under one 
initial letter in one dictionary of one barbaric language, 
may give an idea of the amount of the evidence from 

VOL. I. 


the languages of the lower races bearing on the present 

For the present purpose of givhig a brief series of ex- 
amples of the sort of words in which imitative sound seems 
fairly traceable, the strongest and most manageable evidence 
is of course found among such words as directly describe 
sounds or what produces them, such as sounds of, and names 
for animals, the terms for actions accompanied by sound, and 
the materials and objects so acted upon. In further inves- 
tigation it becomes more and more requisite to isolate the 
sound-type or root from the modifications and additions to 
which it has been subjected for grammatical and phonetical 
adaptation. It will serve to give an idea of the extent and 
intricacy of this problem, to glance at a group of words in one 
European language, and notice the et3^mological network which 
spreads round the German word Idajpf, in Grimm's dictionary, 
hla'p'penjdippen, Idopfenjclaffen, Jdi'mpern, IdamiJernJdateren, 
Idoteren, klitteren, klatzen, Jdacken, and so forth, to be matched 
with allied forms in other languages. Setting aside the con- 
sideration of grammatical inflexion, it belongs to the present sub- 
ject to notice that man's imitative faculty in language is by no 
means limited to making direct copies of sounds and shaping 
them into words. It seizes upon ready-made terms of whatever 
origin, alters and adapts them to make their sound fitting to their 
sense, and pours into the dictionaries a flood of adapted words of 
which the most difficult to analyse are those which are neither 
altogether etymological nor altogether imitative, but partly both. 
How words, while preserving, so to speak, the same skeleton, 
may be made to follow the variation of sound, of force, of 
duration, of size, an imitative group more or less connected 
with the last will show — crick, creak, crack, crash, crush, crunch, 
craunch, scrunch, scraunch. It does not at all follow that 
because a word suffers such imitative and symbolic changes it 
inust be, like this, directly imitative in its origin. What, for 
instance, could sound more imitative than the name of that 
old-fashioned cannon for throwing grape-shot, the patterero I 
Yet the etymology of the word appears in the Spanish form 
peclrero, French perrier ; it means simply an instrument for 


throwing stones {'inedra, plerre), and it was only when the 
Spanish word was adopted in Englanc that the imitative 
faculty aiught and transformed it into an apparent sound- 
word, resembling the verb to ixtttev. Tlie propensity of lan- 
;giiage to make sense of strange words by altering them into 
•something with an appropriate meaning (like heef eater from 
■huffetier) has been often (hvelt upon by philologists, but the 
propensity to alter w^ords into something with an appropriate 
sound has produced results immensely more important. The 
effects of symbolic change of sound acting upon verb-roots seem 
almost boundless. The verb to luaddle has a strongly imita- 
tive appearance, and so in German we can hardly resist the 
suggestion that imitative sound has to do Avith the difference 
between luandern and ^vaiideln ; but all these verbs belong 
to a family represented by Sanskrit vcid, to go, Latin vado, and 
to this root there seems no sufficient ground for assigning an 
imitative origin, the traces of which it has at any rate lost if 
it ever had them. Thus, again, to stamp with the foot, which 
has been claimed as an imitation of sound, seems only a 
*' coloured " word. The root sta, " to stand," Sanskrit stlid, forms 
a causative stap ; Sanskrit sthdpay, " to make to stand," English 
to stop, and a iooi-step is when the foot comes to a stand, a 
ioot-stop. But we have Anglo-Saxon stapaii, stcepan, step- 
pan, English to step, varying to express its meaning by sound 
into staiip, to stamp, to stiimp>, and to stomp, contrasting in 
their violence or clumsy weight with the foot on the Dorset 
•cottage-sill — in Barnes's ptjem : — 

" Where love do seek the maiden's evcuea vloor, 
Wi' stip-step light, an tip -tap slight 

Agtiin the door." 

By expanding, modifying, or, so to speak, colouring, sound 
is able to produce effects closely like those of gesture-language, 
expressing length or shortness of time, strength or weakness 
of action, then passing into a further stage to describe great- 
ness or smallness of size or of distance, and thence making- 
its way into the widest fields of metaphor. And it does all 
this with a force which is surprising when avo consider how 



childishly simple are the means employed. Thus the Bachapin 
of Africa call a man with the cry liela ! but according as he 
is far or farther off the sound of the heela ! Jie-e-la ! is 
lengthened out. Mr. Macgregor in his ' Rob Roy on the 
Jordan/ graphically describes this method of expression, " ' But 
where is Zalmouda V ... Then with rough eagerness 
the strongest of the Dowana faction pushes his long fore- 
finger forward, pointing straight enough — but whither ? and 

with a volley of words ends, Ah-ah-a-a-a a-a. This- 

strange expression had long before puzzled me when first 
heard from a shepherd in Bashan. . . . But the simple 
meaning of this long string of aJis " shortened, and quick- 
ened, and lowered in tone to the end, is merely that the place 
pointed to is a 'very great way off.' " The Chinook jargon, 
as usual representing primitive developments of language, uses 
a similar device in lengtheniog the sound of words to indicate 
distance. The Siamese can, by varying the tone-accent, 
make the syllable non, " there," express a near, indefinite, or 
far distance, and in like manner can modify the meaning of 
such a word as ny, "little." In the Gaboon, the strength 
with which such a word as onpolu, "great," is uttered serves 
to show whether it is great, very great, or very very great, and 
in this way, as Mr. Wilson remarks in his 'Mpongwe Grammar,* 
" the comparative degrees of greatness, smallness, hardness,, 
rapidity, and strength, &c., may be conveyed with more accurac}'' 
and precision than could readily be conceived." In Madagascar 
ratcJii means "bad," but ratcJii is "very bad." The natives of 
Australia, according to Oldfield, show the use of this process in 
combination with that of symbolic reduplication : among the 
Watchandie tribe jir-rie signifies "already or past," jir-rie 
jir-rie indicates "a long time ago," while jie-r-rie jirrie (the 
first syllable being dwelt on for some time) signifies " an im- 
mense time ago." Again, hoo-rie is " small," hoo-rie-hoo-vie 
"very small," and h-o-i^ie hoorie "exceedingly small." Wilhelm 
von Humboldt notices the habit of the southern Guarani dia- 
lect of South America of dwelling more or less time on the 
sufiix of the perfect tense, ynia, y — ma, to indicate the length 
or shortness of the distance of time at which the action took 


place ; and it is curious to observe that a similar contrivance is 
made use of anions: the aboris^inal tribes of India, where the 
Ho language forms a future tense by adding d to the root, and 
prolonging its sound, kajee " to speak," Amg kajeed " I will 
speak." As might be expected, the languages of very rude 
tribes show extremely well how the results of such primitive 
processes pass, into the recognized stock of language. Nothing 
could be better for this than the words by which one of the 
rudest of living races, the Botocudos of Brazil, express the 
sea. They have a word for a stream, ouatou, and an adjective 
which means great, ij ij^aJcijiou ; thence the two words " stream- 
great," a little strengthened in the vowels, will give the term 
for a river, oiiatoii-ijiipahiiijou, as it were " stream-grea-at," 
and this, to express the immensity of the ocean, is amplified 
into ouatou-iijipaJciijou-oic-oii-ou-ou-oiL Another tribe of the 
same family works out the same result more simply ; the word 
ouatou, " stream," becomes oucdou-ou-ou-ou, " the sea." The 
.Chavantes very naturally stretch the expression rom-o-wodi, 
"I go a long way," into rom-o-o-o-o-wodi, "I go a very long 
way indeed," and when they are called upon to count beyond 
five they say it is ka-o-o-o-Jci, by which they evidently mean 
it is a very great many. The Cauixanas in one vocabulary are 
described as saying Icncauugahi for four, and drawling out the 
same word for five, as if to say a " long four," in somewhat 
the same way as the Aponegicrans, whose word for six is ita- 
witna, can expand this into a word for seven, itaivuuna, ob- 
viously thus meaning a " long six." In their earlier and simpler 
stages nothing can be more easy to comprehend than these, so 
to speak, pictorial modifications of words. It is true that 
writing, even with the aid of italics and capitals, ignores much 
of this symbolism in spoken language, but every child can see 
its use and meaning, in spite of the efforts of book-learning 
and school-teaching to set aside whatever cannot be expressed 
by their imperfect symbols, nor controlled by their narrow 
rules. But when we try to follow out to their full results these 
methods, at first so easy to trace and appreciate, we soon find 
them passing out of our grasp. The language of the Sahaptin 
Indians shows us a process of modifying words which is far 


from clear, and yet not utterly obscure. These Indians have a 
vray of making a kind of disrespectful diminutive by changing 
tlie n in a word to l\ thus twinwt means " tailless," but to 
indicate particular smallness, or to express contempt, they make. 
this into tivUtvt, pronounced with an appropriate change of 
tone ; and again, luana means " river," but this is made into a 
diminutive ivala by " changing n into I, giving the voice a 
different tone, putting the lips out in speaking, and keeping 
them suspended around the jaw." Here we are told enough 
about the change of pronunciation to guess at least how it 
could convey the notions of smallness and contempt. But it 
is less easy to follow the process by which the Mpongwe lan- 
guage turns an affirmative into a negative verb by " an intona- 
tion upon, or prolongation of the radical vowel," tonda, to love, 
tonda, not to love ; tondo, to be loved, tgndo, not to be loved. So- 
Yoruba, bdha, "a great thing," bdha, "a small thing," contrasted 
in a proverb, '" Baba bo, hciba molle " — "A great matter puts a 
smaller out of sight.'"' Language is, in fact, full of phonetic modi- 
fications which justify a suspicion that symbolic sound had to do 
wdth their production, though it may be hard to say exactly how. 
Again, there is the familiar process of reduplication, simple 
or modified, w^hich produces such forms as onurraur, yitiJat,. 
lielter shelter. This action, though much restricted in literary 
dialects, has such immense scope in the talk of children and 
savages that Professor Pott's treatise on it ^ has become inci- 
dentally one of the most valuable collections of facts ever 
made with relation to early stages of language. Now up to a 
certain point any child can see how and why such doubling is 
done, and hov/ it always adds something to the original idea. 
It may make superlatives or otherwise intensify words, as in 
Polynesia loa " long," lololoa " very long " ; Mandingo ding- 
" a child," dingding " a very little child." It makes plurals, 
as Malay raja-raja " princes," orang-oramg " people." It 
adds numerals, as Mosquito wahual " four " (two-two), or dis- 
tributes them, as Coptic oiiai ouai " singly " (one-one). These 

^ Pott, 'Doppelimg (Reduplication, Gemination) als eines tier -wiclitigsten 
Bildiingsmittel der Spvaclie,' 1S62. Frequent use lias been here made of this, 


are cases where the motive of doubling is comparatively easy 
to make out. As an example of cases much more difficult to 
comprehend may be taken the familiar reduplication of the 
perfect tense, Greek yiypa^pa from ypa(j)Oi, Latin momordi from 
7}iordeo, Gothic haihcdd from hcddan, " to hold." Reduplication 
is habitually used in imitative words to intensify them, and still 
more, to show that the sound is repeated or continuous. From 
the immense mass of such words we may take as instances 
the Botocudo hoii-hou-Jiou-gitcha " to suck " (compare Tongan 
Jtuhii " breast "), Idahii-lmch-kdclc " a butterfly " ; Quichua 
chiuiuiuifiichi " wind whistling in the trees " ; Maori haruru 
" noise of wind " ; hohoro " hurry " ; Dayak kcdccdckcdca " to go 
on laughing loud " ; Aino sliiriiishiriukanni "a rasp " ; Tamil 
TiiurumuTu '' to 'murviiir '' ; Akra eivieiuieiuiewie "he spoke 
repeatedly and continually" ; and so on, throughout the whole 
range of the languages of the world. 

The device of conveying different ideas of distance by the 
use of a graduated scale of vowels seems to me one of great 
philological interest, from the suggestive hint it gives of the 
proceedings of the language-makers in most distant regions of 
the world, working out in various ways a similar ingenious con- 
trivance of expression by sound. A typical series is the Javan : 
iici " this " (close by) ; ilea " that " (at some distance) ; iku 
"that" (farther off). It is not likely that the following list 
nearly exhausts the whole number of cases in the languages of 
the world, for about half the number have been incidentally 
noted down by myself without any especial search, but merely 
in the course of looking over vocabularies of the lower races.^ 

Javan , . iki, this ; ika, that (intermediate) ; iku, that. 

Malagasy . . ao^ there (at a short distance) ; eo, there (at a 

shorter distance) ; io, there, (close at hand). 
atsy, there (not far off) ; etsy, there (nearer) ; itsy, 

this or these. 

^ For authorities see especially Pott, 'Doppelung,' p. 30, 47-49 ; W. v. 
Humboldt, 'Kawi-Spr,,' vol. ii. p. 36 ; Max Miillerin Bunsen, 'Philos. of Univ. 
Hist.,' vol i. p. 329 ; Latham, *Comp. Phil.' p. 200; and the grammars and 
dictionaries of the particular languages. The Guarani and Carib on authority of 
D'Orbigny, *L'Homme American,' vol ii. p. 263 ; Dhimal of Hodgson, 'Abor. of 
India,' p. 69, 79, 115 ; Colville Ind. of Wilson in ' Tr. Eth. Soc.,' vol. iv. p. 331 ; 
Botocudo of Martins, 'Gloss. Brasil.' 




Tamul . 
Dhimal . 

Ossetic . 

Yoruba . 
Tumale . 


Sujelpa (Colville, Ind 








ko, here ; Zca, there. 

korera, these ; karera, they (those). 

ivanu, this ; uvanu^ that (intermediate) ; avanic, that. 

t, this ; «, that. 

ih, this ; dh, that. 

ishoy ita, here ; usJio, uta, there. 

iti, idong^ this; uti, udong, that [of things and 

persons respectively]. 
alri, this; uhri, that. 
am^ here; «m, there. 
ez, this ; az, that. 
apa, here ; apo, there. 
lesiy leso, lesiya ; ahii, aho, ahuya ; &c. = this, that, 

that (in the distance). 
na, this ; ni, that. 
olo, this; ole, that. 
re, this ; ri, that. 
7igi, I; ngo, thou; ngu, he. 
uv, here, there (where one points to) ; iv, there, 

up there [found in comp.]. 
)yaxctythis; ?x*, that. 
kina, here ; kuna, there. 
ne, here ; 7iu, there. 
ibe, here ; ahe, there. 
7ide^ ne, thou; 7idi, ni, he. 
ati, I; oti, thou, you, (prep.) to. 
ne, thou ; ni, he. 
tva, vaclii, this ; tvey, veycM, that. 

It is obvious on inspection of this list of pronouns and abverbs, 
that they have in some way come to have their vowels con- 
trasted to match the constrast of here and there, this and that. 
Accident may sometimes account for such cases. For instance, 
it is well known to philologists that our own this and that are 
pronouns partly distinct in their formation, this being probably 
two pronouns run together, but yet the Dutch neuters dit '" this," 
and dat " that," have taken the appearance of a single form 
with contrasted vowels.^ But accident cannot account for the 
frequency of such words in pairs, and even in sets of three, in so 
many different languages. There must have been some common 
intention at work, and there is evidence that some of these 

^ Also Old WvAi German diz and daz. 


languages do resort to change of sound as a means of express- 
ing change of distance. Thus the language of Fernando Po can 
not only express " this " and " tliat " by olo, ole, but it can even 
make a change of the pronounciation of the vowel distinguish 
between o boehe, "this month," and oh hoeJie, " that month." In 
the same way the Grebo can make the difference between " I " 
and "thou," "we " and "you," " solely by the intonation of the 
voice, which the final It of the second persons mdh and ah is 
intended to express." 

md di, I eat; mdh di, thou eatest; 
d di, we eat ; ah di, ye eat. 

The set of Zulu demonstratives which express the three 
distances of near, farther, farthest, are very complex, but a 
remark as to their use shows how thoroughly symbolic sound 
enters into their nature. The Zulus not only say nansi, " here 
is," nanso, *' there is," nansiya, " there is in the distance," but 
they even express the greatness of this distance by the emphasis 
and prolongation of the ya. If we could discern a similar 
gradation of the vowels to express a corresponding gradation of 
distance throughout our list, the whole matter would be easier 
to explain ; but it is not so, the '^-words, for instance, are some- 
times nearer and sometimes farther off than the (X-words. We 
can only judge that, as any child can see that a scale of vowels 
makes a most expressive scale of distances, many pronouns and 
adverbs in use in the world have probably taken their shape 
under the influence of this simple device, and thus there have 
arisen sets of what we may call contrasted or " differential " 

How the differencing of words by change of vowels may be 
"used to distinguish between the sexes, is well put in a 
remark of Professor Max Miiller's : " The distinction of gender 
... is sometimes expressed in such a manner that we can only 
explain it by ascribing an expressive power to the more or less 
obscure sound of vowels. UkJw, in Finnic, is an old man ; akka, 
an old woman. ... In Mangu chacha is mas. . . . cheche, femina. 
Again, ama, in Mangu, is father ; erne, mother ; anicJia, father- 


in-law, emche, mother-in-law."^ The Coretu language of Brazil 
has another curiously contrasted pair of words, tsdacko, " father " 
tsaacko, ''mother," while the Carib has haha for father, and hihi 
for mother, and the Ibu of Africa has nna for father and nne 
for mother. This contrivance of distinguishing the male from 
the female by a difference of vowels is however but a small 
jDart of the process of formation which can be traced among 
such words as those for father and mother. Their consideration 
leads into a very interesting philological region, that of 
" Children's Language." 

If we set down a few of the pairs of words which stand for 
'' father " and " mother " in very different and distant languages 
— -j^^ctpa and mctma ; Welsh, ^(xc^ [dad) and ina7)x; Hungarian, 
atya and anya ; Mandingo, fa and ha; Lummi (N. America), 
man and tan : Catoquina (S. America) payu and nayu ; 
Watchandie (Australia), a7)%o and ago — their contrast seems to 
lie in their consonants, while many other pairs differ totally, like 
Hebrew, ah and im ; Kuki, p'/ict and noo ; Kayan, amay and 
inei ; Tarahumara, nono and jeje. Words of the class of 
'pajpa and mama, occurring in remote parts of the world, 
were once freely used as evidence of a common origin of 
the languages in which they were found alike. But Professor 
Buschmann's paper on "Nature-Sound," published in 1853,^ 
effectually overthrew this argument, and settled the view that 
such coincidences might arise again and again by independent 
production. It was clearly of no use to argue that Carib and 
English were allied because the word papa, " father," belongs to 
both, or Hottentot and English because both use mama for 
" mother," seeing that these childish articulations may be used 
in just the opposite way, for the Chilian word for mother is 
jxtpa, and the Tlatbkanai for father is mam.a. Yet the choice 
of easy little words for " father " and " mother " does not seem 
to have been quite indiscriminate. The immense list of such 
w^ords collected by Buschmann shows that the types pa and ta, 

* Max Miiller, L c. 

^ J. C. E. Buschmann, * Ueber den Naturlaut,' Berlin, 1853; and in 'Abli. 
der K. Akad. d. AVissensch,' 1852. An English trans, in * Proc. Philological 
Society,' vol. vi. See De Bros&es, 'Form, des L. ,' vol. i. p. 211. 


with the similar forms ap and at, preponderate in the world as 
names for "father," while 7)ia and na, am and an, preponderate 
as names for "mother." His explanation of this state of things 
as affected by direct symbolism choosing the hard sound for the 
father, and the gentler for the mother, has very likely truth in 
it, but it must not be pushed too far. It cannot be, for instance, 
the same principle of symbolism which leads the Welshman to 
say tad for " father" and tnar,!, for "mother " and the Indian of 
British Columbia to say onaan, "father," and taan, "mother," 
or the Georgian to say mama, " father " and cleda, " mother." 
Yet I have not succeeded in finding anywhere our familiar 
2^apa and mama, reversed in one and the same language ; tlie 
nearest approach to it that I can give is from the island of 
Meang, where onama meant "father, man/' and hahi, "mother, 
woman." ^ 

Between the nursery words papa and miama and the more 
ioTxndl father and mother there is an obvious resemblance in 
sound. What, then, is the origin of these words father and 
'mother ?■ Up to a certain point their history is clear. They 
belong to the same group of organised words with vater and 
Qnutter, pater and 7)iater, iran^p and iJirjTrip, pitar and mdtar, and 
other similar forms through the Indo-European family of 
languages. There is no doubt that all these pairs of names 
are derived from an ancient and common Aryan source, and 
when they are traced back as far as possible towards that 
source, they appear to have sprung from a pair of words which 
maybe roughly called patar and matar, and which were formed 
by adding tar, the suffix of the actor, to the verb-roots j9a and 
nna. There being two appropriate Sanskrit verbs pa and Tnd, 
it is possible to etymologize the two words SiS patar, "protector," 
and rnatar, "producer." Now this pair of Aryan words must 
have been very ancient, lying back at the remote common 
source from which forms parallel to our English father and 
mother passed into Greek and Persian, Norse and Armenian,, 
thus holding fixed type through the eventful course of Indo- 
European history. Yet, ancient as these words are, they were 

* One family of languages, the Athapascan, contains both a2)pd and mama as 
terms for "father," in the Tahkali anrl Tlatskanai. 


no doubt preceded by simpler rudimentary words of the 
children's language, for it is not likely that the primitive 
Aryans did without baby- words for father and mother until they 
had an organized system of adding suffixes to verb-roots to 
express such notions as "protector " or "producer." Nor can it 
be supposed that it was by mere accident that the root- words 
thus chosen happened to be the very sounds pa and ma, whose 
types so often recur in the remotest parts of the world as names 
for "father" and "mother." Prof Adolphe Pictet makes shift 
to account for the coincidence thus : he postulates first the 
pair of forms pd and rad as Aryan verb-roots of unknown 
origin, meaning " to protect " and " to create," next another 
pair of forms xja and ma, children's words commonly used to 
denote father and mother, and lastly he combines the two by 
supposing that the root-verbs pd and ma were chosen to form 
the Indo-European words for parents, because of their resem- 
blance to the familiar baby-words already in use. This cir- 
cuitous process at any rate saves those sacred monosyllables, 
the Sanskrit verb-roots, from the disgrace of an assignable 
origin. Yet those who remember that these verb-roots are 
only a set of crude forms in use in one particular language of 
the world at one particular period of its development, may 
account for the facts more simply and more thoroughly. It is a 
fair guess that the ubiquitous jpa and mfia of the children's 
language were the original forms ; that they were used in an 
early period of Aryan speech as indiscriminately substantive and 
verb, just as our modern English, which so often reproduces 
the most rudimentary linguistic processes, can form from the 
noun " father " a verb " to father " ; and that lastly they 
became verb-roots, whence the words patar and matar were 
formed by the addition of the suffix.^ 

The baby-names for parents must not be studied as though 
they stood alone in language. They are only important mem- 
bers of a great class of words, belonging to all times and 
countries within our experience, and forming a children's 

» See Pott, 'Indo-Ger. Wurzelworterb.' s. v. ''pa"; Bbhtlingk and Eoth, 
^ Sanskrit-Worterb.' s. v. mdtar ; Pictet, * Origines Indo-Euro}:).,' part ii. p. 349. 
Max Miiller, ' Lectuves,' 2nd series, p. 212. 


lanofuaofe, whose common character is due to its concerniDor 
itself with the Hmited set of ideas in which little children are 
interested, and expressing these ideas by the limited set of 
articulations suited to the child's first attempts to talk. This 
peculiar language is marked quite characteristically among the 
low savage tribes of Australia ; mamman " father," ngangaoi 
" mother," and by metaphor " thumb/' " great toe " (as is more 
fully explained in jiiinaviaminan " great toe," i.e. foot's 
father), tammin " grandfather or grandmother," hah-ba " bad, 
foolish, childish," hee-hee, heep " breast," jxtppi " father," ^a^j^a 
" young one, puiD, whelp," (whence is grammatically formed the 
verb 2^ct2:)2Jariiiti "to become a young one, to be born." Or if 
we look for examples from India, it does not matter whether we 
take them from non-Hindu or Hindu languages, for in baby- 
language all races are on one footing. Thus Tamil appd "father," 
amimid "mother," Bodo aplici "father," ctyd "mother;" the 
Kocch group nana and ndiii "paternal grandfather and 
grandmother," ^nndrad " uncle," dddd '' cousin," may be set 
beside Sanskrit tata " father," nand " mother," and the Hindus- 
tani words of the same class, of which some are familiar to the 
English ear by being naturalized in Anglo-Indian talk, hdbd 
" father," hdhu "child, prince, Mr.," M6'^ " lady," dadd "nurse " 
{dyd "nurse" seems borrowed from Portuguese). Such words 
are continually coming fresh into existence everywhere, and the 
law of natural selection determines their fate. The great mass 
of the nana's and dadas of the nursery die out almost as soon 
as made. Some few take more root and spread over large 
districts as accepted nursery words, and now and then a curious 
philologist makes a collection of them. Of such, many are 
obvious mutilations of larger words, as French faire dodo " to 
sleep" (dormir), Brandenburg wiwi, a common cradle lullaby 
(wiegen). Others, whatever their origin, fall in consequence of 
the small variety of articulations out of which they must be 
chosen, into a curiously indiscriminate and unmeaning mass, as 
Swiss boho "a scratch;" bambam "all gone;" Italian bobb 
"something to drink," gogo "little boy," far dede " to play." 
These are words quoted by Pott, and for English examples 
nana "nurse," tata/ "good-b3^e!" may serve. But all baby- 


words, as this very name proves, do not stop short even at this 
stage of publicity. A small proportion of them establish them- 
selves in the ordinary talk of grown-up men and women, and 
when they have once made good their place as constituents of 
general language, they may pass on by inheritance from age to 
age. Such examples as have been here quoted of nursery words 
give a clue to the origin of a mass of names in the most diverse 
languages, for father, mother, grandmother, aunt, child, breast, 
toy, doll, &c. The negro of Fernando Po who uses the word 
huhhoh for " a little boy," is on equal terms with the German 
who uses huhe ; the Congo-man who uses tafa for ''father" 
would understand how the same word could be used in classic 
Latin for " father " and mediaeval Latin for " pedagogue ; " the 
Carib and the Caroline Islander agree with the Englishman that 
^JCtpa is a suitable word to express " father," and then it only 
remains to carry on the word, and make the baby-language 
name the priests of the Eastern Church and the great Papa of 
the Western. At the same time the evidence explains the 
indifference with which, out of the small stock of available 
materials, the same sound does duty for the most different 
ideas ; why Tnama means here " mother," there " father," there 
"uncle," mamc6?i here "mother," there " father-in-law," (iac?c6 
here "father," there "nurse," there "breast," tata here "father," 
there " son." A single group of words may serve to show 
this character of this peculiar region of language : Blackfoot 
Indian ninnah " father ;" Greek vivvos " uncle," vivva " aunt ;" 
Zulu nina, Sangir nina, Malagasy nini " mother ;" Javan nini 
" grandfather or grandmother;" Yayu nini "paternal aunt;" 
Darien Indian ninah "daughter;" Spanish 7U>7c>, nina "child;" 
Italian ninna "little girl;" Milanese ninin "bed;" Italian 
ninnare " to rock the cradle." 

In this way a dozen easy child's articulations, has and nds, 
iVs and des, ixjCs and mas, serve almost as indiscriminately to 
express a dozen child's ideas as though they had been shaken 
in a bag and pulled out at random to express the notion that 
came first, doll or uncle, nurse or grandfather. It is obvious 
that among words cramped to such scanty choice of articulate 
sounds, speculations as to derivation must be more than usually 


unsafe. Looked at from this point of view, children's language 
may give a vakiable lesson to the philologist. He has before 
him a kind of language, formed under peculiar conditions, and 
showing the weak points of his method of philological research, 
only exaggerated into extraordinary distinctness. In ordinary 
language, the difficulty of connecting sound with sense lies in 
great measure in the inability of a small and rigid set of articu- 
lations to express an interminable variety of tones and noises. 
In children's language, a still more scanty set of articulations 
fails yet more to render these distinctly. The difficulty of 
finding the derivation of words lies in great measure in the use 
of more or less similar root-sounds for most heterogeneous pur- 
poses. To assume that two words of different meanings, just 
because they sound somewhat alike, must therefore have a 
common origin, is even in ordinary language the great soiu'ce of 
bad etymology. But in children's language the theory of root- 
sounds fairly breaks down. Few would venture to assert, for 
instance, that papa and pap have a common derivation or a 
common root. All that we can safely say of connexion between 
them is that they are words related by common acceptance in 
the nursery language. As such, they are well-marked in 
ancient Rome as in modern England : papas " nutricius, 
nutritor," j^^^PP^^^ "senex;" ''cum cibum et potum huas ac 
papas dicunt, et matrem "inammam, patrem tatam (or 
papam)" ^ 

From children's language, moreover, we have striking proof 
of the power of consensus of society, in establishing words in 
settled use without their carrying traces of inherent expressive- 
ness. It is true that children are intimately acquainted with 
the use of emotional and imitative sound, and their vocal inter- 
course largely consists of such expression. The effects of this 
are in some des^ree discernible in the class of words we are con- 
sidering. But it is obvious that the leading principle of their 
formation is not to adopt words distinguished by the expressive 
chaiacter of their sound, but to choose somehow a fixed word to 
an.swer a given purpose. To do this, different languages have 
chosen similar articulations to express the most diverse and 

^ Facciolati, 'Le.x,' Varro ap. Nonn., ii. 97. 


opposite ideas. Now in the languages of grown-up people, it is 
clear that social consensus has worked in the same way. Even 
if the extreme supposition be granted, that the ultimate origin 
of every word of language lies in inherently expressive sound,, 
this only partly affects the case, for it would have to be admitted 
that, in actual languages, most words have so far departed in 
sound or sense from this originally expressive stage, that to all 
intents and purposes they might at first have been arbitrarily 
chosen. The main principle of language has been, not to 
preserve traces of original sound-signification for the benefit of 
future etymologists, but to fix elements of language to serve as 
counters for practical reckoning of ideas. In this process much 
original expressiveness has no doubt disappeared beyond all 
hope of recovery. 

Such are some of the ways in which vocal sounds seem to 
have commended themselves to the mind of the word-maker as 
fit to express his meaning, and to have been used accordingly, 
I do not think that the evidence here adduced justifies the 
sooting-up of what is called the Interjectional and Imitative 
Theory as a complete solution of the problem of original lan- 
guage. Valid as this theory proves itself within limits, it would 
be incautious to accept a hypothesis which can perhaps satis- 
factorily account for a twentieth of the crude forms in any lan- 
guage, as a certain and absolute explanation of the nineteen- 
twentieths whose origin remains doubtful. A key must unlock 
more doors than this, to be taken as the master-key. More- 
over, some special points which have come under consideration 
in these chapters tend to show the positive necessity of such 
caution in theorising. Too narrow a theory of the application 
of sound to sense may fail to include the varied devices which 
the languages of different regions turn to account. It is thus 
with the distinction in meaning of a word by its musical 
accent, and the distinction of distance by graduated vowels. 
These are ingenious and intelligible contrivances, but they 
hardly seem directly emotional or imitative in origin. A safer 
way of putting the theory of a natural origin of language is to 
postulate the original utterance of ideas in what may be called 
self-expressive sounds, without defining closely whether their ex- 


pression lay in emotional tone, imitative noise, contrast of accent 
or vowel or consonant, or other ]3honetic quality. Even here, ex- 
ception of unknown and perhaps enormous extent must be made 
for sounds chosen by individuals to express some notion, from mo- 
tives which even their own minds failed to discern, but whicli 
sounds nevertheless made good their footing in the language 
of the family, the tribe, and the nation. There may be many 
modes even of recognizable phonetic expression, unknown to us 
as yet. So far, however, as I have been able to trace them here, 
such modes have in common a claim to belong not exclusively to 
the scheme of this or that particular dialect, but to wdde-ranging 
principles of formation of language. Their examples are to 
be drawn with equal cogency from Sanskrit or Hebrew, from 
the nursery-language of Lombardy, or the half-Indian, half- 
European jargon of Vancouver's Island ; and wherever they 
are found, they help to furnish groups of sound- w^ords — words 
which have not lost the traces of their first expressive origin, 
but still carry their direct significance plainly stamped upon 
them. In fact, the time has now come for a substantial basis 
to be laid for Generative Philology. A classified collection of 
words with any strong claim to be self-expressive should be 
brought together out of the thousand or so of recognized lan- 
guages and dialects of the world. In such a Dictionary of 
Sound- Words, half the cases cited might very likely be worth- 
less, but the collection would afford the practical means of 
expurgating itself; for it would show on a large scale what 
particular sounds have manifested their fitness to convey parti- 
cular ideas, by having been repeatedly chosen among different 
races to convey them. 

Attempts to explain as far as may be the primary formation 
of speech, by tracing out in detail such processes as have been 
here described, are likely to increase our knowledge by sure 
and steady steps wherever imagination does not get the better 
of sober comparison of facts. But there is one side of this 
problem of the Origin of Language on which such studies have 
by no means an encouraging effect. Much of the popular 
interest in such matters is centred in the question, whether 
the known languages of the world have their source in one or 
VOL. I. r 


many primgeval tongues. On this subject the opinions of the 
philologists who have compared the greatest number of lan- 
guages are utterty at variance, nor has any one brought forward 
a body of philological evidence strong and direct enough to make 
anything beyond mere vague opinion justifiable. Now such 
processes as the growth of imitative or symbolic words form a 
part, be it small or large, of the Origin of Language, but they 
are by no means restricted to any particular place or period, 
and are indeed more or less in activity now. Their operation 
on any two dialects of one language will be to introduce in each 
a number of new and independent words, and words even sus- 
pected of having been formed in this direct way become value- 
less as proof of genealogical connexion between the languages 
in which they are found. The test of such genealogical con- 
nexion must, in fact, be generally narrowed to such words or 
grammatical forms as have become so far conventional in sound 
and sense, that we cannot suppose two tribes to have arrived at 
them independently, and therefore consider that both must 
have inherited them from a common source. Thus the intro- 
duction of new sound-words tends to make it practically of less 
and less consequence to a language what its original stock of 
words at starting may have been ; and the philologist's exten- 
sion of his knowledge of such direct formations must compel 
him to strip off more and more of any language, as being 
possibly of later growth, before he can set himself to argue upon 
such a residuum as may have come by direct inheritance from 
times of primaeval speech. 

In concluding this survey, some general considerations sug- 
gest themselves as to the nature and first beginnings of lan- 
guage. In studying the means of expression among men in 
stages of mental culture far below our own, one of our first 
needs is to clear our minds of the kind of superstitious venera- 
tion with which articulate speech has so commonly been treated, 
as though it were not merely the principal but the sole means 
of uttering thought. We must cease to measure the historical 
importance of emotional exclamations, of gesture-signs, and of 
picture-writing, by their comparative insignificance in modern 
civilized life, but must bring ourselves to associate the articulate 


words of the dictionary in one group with cries and gestures 
and pictures, as being all of them means of manifesting out- 
wardly the inward workings of the mind. Such an admission, 
it must be observed, is far from being a mere detail of scientific 
classification. It has really a most important bearing on the 
problem of the Origin of Language. For as the reasons are 
mostly dark to us, why particular words are currently used to 
express particular ideas, language has come to be looked upon 
as a mystery, and either occult philosophical causes have been 
called in to explain its phenomena, or else the endowment of 
man with the faculties of thought and utterance has been 
deemed insufficient, and a special revelation has been demanded 
to put into his mouth the vocabulary of a particular language. 
In the debate which has been carried on for ages over this 
much-vexed problem, the saying in the ' Kratylos ' comes back 
to our minds again and again, where Sokrates describes the 
etymologists who release themselves from their difficulties as to 
the origin of words by saying that the first words were divinely 
made, and therefore right, just as the tragedians, when they are 
in perplexity, fly to their machinery and bring in the gods.-^ 
Now I think that those who soberly contemplate the operation 
of cries, groans, laughs, and other emotional utterances, as to 
which some considerations have been here brought forward, will 
admit that, at least, our present crude understanding of this 
kind of expression would lead us to class it among the natural 
actions of man's body and mind. Certainly, no one who under- 
stands anything of the gesture-language or of picture-writing, 
would be justified in regarding either as due to occult causes, or 
to any supernatural interference with the course of man's intel- 
lectual development. Their cause evidently lies in natural 
operations of the human mind, not such as were effective in 
some long past condition of humanity and have since disap- 
peared, but in processes existing amongst us, which we can 
understand and even practise for ourselves. When we study 
the pictures and gestures with which savages and the deaf-and- 
dumb express their minds, we can mostly see at a glance the 
direct relation between the outward sign and the inward 

1 Plato Cratylus. 90» 

P 2 


thought which it makes manifest. We may see the idea of 
" sleep " shown in gesture by the head with shut eyes, leant 
heavily against the open hand ; or the idea of " running " by the 
attitude of the runner, with chest forward, mouth half open, 
elbows and shoulders well back ; or " candle " by the straight 
forefinger held up, and as it were blown out ; or " salt " by the 
imitated act of sprinkling it with thumb and finger. The 
figures of the child's picture-book, the sleejDcr and the iTinner,, 
the candle and the salt-cellar, show their purport by the same 
sort of evident relation between thought and sign. We so far 
understand the nature of these modes of utterance, that we are 
ready ourselves to express thought after thought by such means, 
so that those who see our signs shall perceive our meaning. 

When, however, encouraged by our ready success in making^ 
out the nature and action of these ruder methods, we turn to 
the higher art of speech, and ask how such and such words have 
come to express such and such thoughts, we find ourselves face 
to face with an immense problem, as yet but in small part 
solved. The success of investigation has indeed been enough to 
encourage us to push vigorously forward in the research, but 
the present explorations have not extended beyond corners and 
patches of an elsewhere unknown field. Still the results go far 
to warrant us in associating expression by gestures and pictures 
with articulate language as to principles of original formation, 
much as men associate them in actual life by using gesture 
and word at once. Of course, articulate speech, in its far 
more complex and elaborate development, has taken up devices 
to which the more simple and rude means of communication 
offer nothing comparable. Still, language, so far as its constitu- 
tion is understood, seems to have been developed like writing or 
music, like hunting or fire-making, by the exercise of purely 
human faculties in purely human ways. This state of things, 
by no means belongs exclusively to rudimentary philological 
operations, such as the choosing expressive sounds to name cor- 
responding ideas by. In the higher departments of speech,, 
where words already existing are turned to account to express 
new meanings and shade off new distinctions, we find these 
ends attained by contrivances ranging from extreme dexterity 


down to utter clumsiness. For a single instance, one great 
means of giving new meaning to old sound is metaplior, which 
transfers ideas from hearing to seeing, from touching to think- 
ing, from the concrete of one kind to the abstract of another, 
•and can thus make almost anything in the world help to 
describe or suggest an3^thing else. What the German philo- 
sopher described as the relation of a cow to a comet, that both 
have tails, is enough and more than enough for the language- 
maker. It struck the Australians, when they saw a European 
book, that it opened and shut like a mussel-shell, and they 
began accordingly to call books "mussels" (pniiyuon). The 
sight of a steam engine may suggest a whole group of such 
transitions in our own language; the steam passes along " fifes" 
or " trumpets," that is, ^njpes or tubes, and enters by " folding- 
doors" or valves, to push a " pestle" or piston up and down in 
^ " roller" or cylinder, while the light pours from the furnace 
in " staves " or " poles," that is, in rays or heavis. The dic- 
tionaries are full of cases compared with which such as these 
are plain and straightforward. Indeed, the processes by which 
words have really come into existence may often enough remind 
lis of the game of "What is my thought like?" When one 
knows the answer, it is easy enough to see what junketting and 
cathedral canons have to do with reeds ; Latin juncus " a 
reed," Low Latin juncata, " cheese made in a reed-basket," 
Italian giuncata, " cream cheese in a rush frail," French 
joncade and English junket, which are preparations of cream, 
and lastly junketting parties where such delicacies are eaten ; 
Greek Kavr], "reed, cane," Kavcov, "measure, rule," thence 
canonicus, " a clerk under the ecclesiastical rule or canon." 
But who could guess the history of these words, who did not 
happen to know these intermediate links ? 

Yet there is about this process of derivation a thoroughly 
human artificial character. When we know the w^hole facts of 
any case, we can generally understand it at once, and see that 
we might have done the same ourselves had it come in our way. 
And the same thing is true of the processes of making sound- 
words detailed in these chapters. Such a view is, however, in 
no way inconsistent with the attempt to generalise upon these 


processes, and to state them as phases of the development of 
lano'iiasre amono: mankind. If certain men "under certain 
circumstances produce certain results, then we may at least 
expect that other men much resembling these and placed under 
roughly similar circumstances will produce more or less like 
results ; and this has been shown over and over again in these 
pages to be what really happens. Now Wilhelra von Hum- 
boldt's view that language is an ''organism" has been con- 
sidered a great step in philological speculation ; and so far as it 
has led students to turn their minds to the search after general 
laws, no doubt it has been so. But it has also caused an 
increase of vague thinking and talking, and thereby no small 
darkening of counsel. Had it been meant to say that human 
thought, language, and action generally, are organic in their 
nature, and work under fixed laws, this would be a very 
different matter ; but this is distinctly not what is meant, and 
the very object of calling language an organism is to keep it 
apart from mere human arts and contrivances. It was a hate- 
ful thing to Humboldt's mind to " bring down speech to a mere 
operation of the understanding." "Man," he says, "does not 
so much form language, as discern with a kind of joyous wonder 
its developments, coming forth as of themselves." Yet, if the 
practical shifts by which words are shaped or applied to fit new 
meanings are not devised by an operation of the understanding, 
we ought consistently to carry the stratagems of the soldier in 
the field, or the contrivances of the wOT^pan at his bench, back 
into the dark regions of instinct and involuntary action. That 
the actions of individual men combine to produce results which 
may be set down in those general statements of fact which we 
call laws, may be stated once again as one of the main proposi- 
tions of the Science of Culture. But the nature of a fact is not 
altered by its being classed in common with others of the same 
kind, and a man is not the less the intelligent inventor of a new 
word or a new metaphor, because twenty other intelligent 
inventors elsewhere may have fallen on a similar expedient. 

The theory that the original forms of language are to be 
referred to a low or savage condition of culture among the 
remotely ancient human race, stands in general consistency with 


the knoAvn facts of philology. The causes which have produced 
language, so far as they are understood, are notable for that 
childlike simplicity of operation which befits the infancy of 
human civilization. The ways in which sounds are in the first 
instance chosen and arranged to express ideas, are practical 
expedients at the level of nursery philosophy. A child of five 
years old could catch the meaning of imitative sounds, inter- 
jectional words, symbolism of sex or distance by contrast of 
vowels. Just as no one is likely to enter into the real nature of 
mythology who has not the keenest appreciation of nursery 
tales, so the spirit in which we guess riddles and play at 
children's games is needed to appreciate the lower phases of 
language. Such a state of things agrees with the opinion that 
such rudimentary speech had its origin among men while in a 
childlike intellectual condition, and thus the self-expressive 
branch of savage language affords valuable materials for the 
problem of primitive speech. If we look back in imagination 
to an early period of human intercourse, where gesture and 
self-expressive utterance may have had a far greater comparative 
importance than among ourselves, such a conception introduces 
no new element into the problem, for a state of things more or 
less answ^ering to this is described among certain low savage 
tribes. If we turn from such self-expressive utterance, to that 
part of articulate language which carries its sense only by 
traditional and seemingly arbitrary custom, we shall find no 
contradiction to the hypothesis. Sound carrying direct meaning 
may be taken up as an element of language, keeping its first 
significance recognizable to nations yet unborn. But it may far 
more probably become by wear of sound and shift of sense an 
expressionless symbol, such as might have been chosen in 
pure arbitrariness — a philological process to which the voca- 
bularies of savage dialects bear full witness. In the course of 
the development of language, such traditional words with 
merely an inherited meaning, have in no small measure driven 
into the background the self-expressive words, just as the 
Eastern figures 2, 3, 4, which are not self-expressive, have 
driven into the background the Koman numerals II., Ill, IIIL, 
which are — this, again, is an operation which has its place in 


savage as in cultivated speech. Moreover, to look closely at 
language as a practical means of expressing thought, is to face 
evidence of no slight bearing on the history of civilization. We 
come back to the fact, so full of suggestion, that the languages 
of the world represent substantially the same intellectual art, 
the higher nations indeed gaining more expressive power than 
the lowest tribes, yet doing this not by introducing new and more 
effective central principles, but by mere addition and improve- 
ment in detail. The two great methods of naming thoughts 
and stating their relation to one another, metaphor and syntax, 
belong to the infancy of human expression, and are as thoroughly 
at home in the language of savages as of philosophers. If it be 
argued that this similarity in principles of language is due to 
savage tribes having descended from higher culture, carrying 
down with them in their speech the relics of their former 
excellence, the answer is that linguistic expedients are actually 
worked out with as much originality, and more extensively if 
not more profitably, among savages than among cultured men. 
Take for example the Algonquin system of compounding words, 
and the vast Esquimaux scheme of grammatical inflexion. 
Language belongs in essential principle both to low grades and 
high of civilization, to which should its origin be attributed ? 
An answer may be had by comparing the methods of language 
with the work it has to do. Take language all in all over the 
world, it is obvious that the processes by which words are made 
and adapted have far less to do with systematic arrangement and 
scientific classification, than with mere rough and ready ingenuity 
and the great rule of thumb. Let any one whose vocation it is to 
realize philosophical or scientific conceptions and to express them 
in words, ask himself whether ordinary language is an instru- 
ment planned for such purposes. Of course it is not. It is hard 
to say which is the more striking, the want of scientific system 
in the expression of thought by words, or the infinite cleverness 
of detail by which this imperfection is got over, so that he who 
has an idea does somehow make shift to get it clearly in words 
before his own and other minds. The language by which a 
nation with highly developed art and knowledge and sentiment 
must express its thoughts on these subjects, is no apt machine 


devised for such special work, but an old barbaric engine added 
to and altered, patched and tinkered into some sort of capability. 
Ethnography reasonably accounts at once for the immense 
power and the manifest weakness of language as a means of 
expressing modern educated thought, by treating it as an 
original product of low culture, gradually adapted by ages of 
evolution and selection, to answer more or less sufficiently the 
requirements of modern civilization. 



Ideas of Number derived from experience — State of arithmetic among uncivilized 
races — Small extent of Numeral-words among low tribes — Counting by- 
fingers and toes — Hand-numerals show derivation of Verbal reckoning from 
Gesture -counting — Etymology of Numerals — Quinary, Decimal, and Vigesi- 
mal notations of the world derived from counting on fingers and toes — 
Adoption of foreign Numeral-words — Evidence of development of Arithmetic 
from a low original level of Culture. 

Me. J. S. Mill, in his ' System of Logic/ takes occasion to 
examine the foundations of the art of arithmetic. Against 
Dr. Whewell, who had maintained that such propositions as 
that two and three make five are " necessary truths," containing 
in them an element of certainty beyond that which mere expe- 
rience can give, Mr. Mill asserts that " two and one are equal 
to three " expresses merely " a truth known to us by early and 
constant experience : an inductive truth ; and such truths are 
the foundation of the science of Number. The fundamental 
truths of that science all rest on the evidence of sense ; they 
are proved by showing to our eyes and our fingers that any 
given number of objects, ten balls for example, may by separa- 
tion and re-arrangement exhibit to our senses all the different 
sets of numbers the sum of which is equal to ten. All the 
improved methods of teaching arithmetic to children proceed 
on a knowledge of this fact. All who wish to carry the child's 
mind along with them in learning arithmetic ; all who wish to 
teach numbers, and not mere ciphers — now teach it through 
the evidence of the senses, in the manner we have de- 
scribed." Mr. Mill's argument is taken from the mental con- 
ditions of people among whom there exists a highly advanced 


arithmetic. The subject is also one to be advantageously 
studied from the ethnographer's point of view. The examina- 
tion of the methods of numeration in use among the lower 
races not . only fully bears out Mr. Mill's view, that our know- 
ledge of the relations of mmjbers is based on actual experiment, 
but it enables us to trace the art of counting to its source, and 
to ascertain by what steps it arose in the world among parti- 
cular races, and probably among all mankind. 

In our advanced system of numeration, no limit is known 
either to largeness or smallness. The philosopher cannot con- 
ceive the formation of any quantity so large or of any atom so 
small, but the arithmetician can keep pace with him, and can 
define it in a simple combination of written signs. But as vve 
go downwards in the scale of culture, we find that even where 
the current language has terms for hundreds and thousands, 
there is less and less power of forming a distinct notion of large 
numbers, the reckoner is sooner driven to his fingers, and there 
increases among even the most intelligent of a tribe that 
numerical indefiniteness that we notice among children — if 
there were not a thousand people in the street there were cer- 
tainly a hundred, at any rate there were twenty. Strength in 
arithmetic does not, it is true, vary regularly with the level of 
general culture. Some savage or barbaric peoples are excep- 
tionally skilled in numeration. The Tonga Islanders really 
have native numerals up to 100,000. Not content even with 
this, the French explorer Labillardiere pressed them farther 
and obtained numerals up to 1000 billions, which were duly 
printed, but proved on later examination to be partly nonsense- 
words and partly indelicate expressions,^ so that the supposed 
series of high numerals forms at once a little vocabulary of 
Tongan indecency, and a warning as to the probable results of 
taking down unchecked answers from question-worried savages. 
In West Africa, a lively and continual habit of bargaining has 
developed a great power of arithmetic, and little children 
already do feats of computation with their heaps of cowries. 
Among the Yorubas of Abeokuta, to say "you don't know nine 
times nine " is actually an insulting way of saying '' you are a 

* Mariner, 'Tonga Islands,' vol. ii. y>. 390. 


dunce." ^ This is an extraordinary proverb, when we compare 

it with the standard which our corresponding European sayings 

set for the limits of stupidity : the German says, " he can scarce 

count five " ; the Spaniard, " I will tell you how many make 

five " (cuantos son cinco) ; and we have the same saw in 

England : — 

** . . . as sure as I 'm alive, 
And knows how many beans make five." 

A Siamese law^-court will not take the evidence of a witness 
v/ho cannot count or reckon figures up to ten ; a rule which 
reminds us of the ancient custom of Shrewsbury, wd:iere a 
person was deemed of age when he knew how to count up to 
twelve pence.^ 

Among the lowest living men, the savages of the South 
American forests and the deserts of Australia, 5 is actually 
found to be a number which the lansfuag^es of some tribes do 
not know by a special word. Not only have travellers failed 
to get from them names for numbers above 2, 3, or 4, but the 
opinion that these are the real limits of their numeral series is 
strengthened by their use of their highest known number as an 
indefinite term for a great many. Spix and Martius say of the 
low tribes of Brazil, " They count commonly by their finger- 
joints, so up to three only. Any larger number they express 
by the word ' many.' " ^ In a Puri vocabulary the numerals are 
given as 1. omi; 2. curiri; 3. prica, "many" : in a Botocudo 
vocabulary, 1. raokenam; 2. uruhu, " many." The numeration 
of the Tasmanians is, according to Jorgenson, 1. farmery ; 2. 
calahaiua ; more than 2, cardia; as Backhouse puts it, they 
count " one, two, plenty " ; but an observer who had specially 
good opportunities, Dr. Milligan, gives a word found among 
them for 5, which w^e shall recur to.* Mr. Oldfield (writing 

• Crowther, ' Yoraba Vocab.' ; Burton, ' W. & \V. from W. Africa,' p. 253. 
" daju danu, o ko mo essan messan. — You (may seem) very clever, (but) you 
can't tell 9x9." 

2 Low in ' Journ. Ind. Archip.,' vol. i. p. 408 ; Year-Books Edw. I. (xx. — i.) 
ed. Horwood, p. 220. 

^ Spix and Martius, 'Eeise in Brazilien,' p. 387. 

^ Bonwick, 'Tasmanians,' p. 143 ; Backhouse, * Nan-.' p. 104 ; Milligan in Papers, 
etc. Eoy. See. Tasmania, vol. iii. partii. 1859. 


especially of Western tribes) says, " The New Hollanders have 
no names for numbers beyond tiuo. The Watchandie scale of 
notation is co-ote-on (one), u-tau-ra (two), bool-tha (many), and 
hool-tha-bat (very many). If absolutely required to express the 
numbers three or four, they say u-tar-ra coo-te-oo to indicate 
the former number, and u-tar-ra u-tar-ra to denote the latter." 
That is to say, their names for one, two, three, and four, are 
equivalent to " one," "two," "two-one," "two-two." Dr. Lang's 
numerals from Queensland are just the same in principle, 
though the words are different : 1. ganar ; 2. hurla ; 3. hurla- 
ganar/' two-one " ; 4. hurla-hurla "two-two"; horumha, "more 
than four, much, great." The Kamilaroi dialect, though with 
the same 2 as the last, improves upon it b}^ having an inde- 
pendent 3, and with the aid of this it reckons as far as 6 : 1. 
raal; 2. hularr ; 3. guliha ; 4. hularrhularr, "two-two"; 5.. 
hulagidiha, "two-three"; 6. gulihaguliba, "three-three." 
These Australian examples are at least evidence of a very 
scanty as well as clumsy nuixieral system among certain tribes.^ 
Yet here again higher forms will have to be noticed, which in 
one district at least carry the native numerals up to 15 or 20. 

It is not to be supposed, because a savage tribe has no 
current words for numbers above 3 or 5 or so, that therefore 
they cannot count beyond this. It appears that they can and 
do count considerably farther, but it is by falling back on a 
lower and ruder method of expression than speech — the gesture- 
language. The place in intellectual development held by the 
art of counting on one's fingers, is well marked in the descrip- 
tion which Massieu, the Abbe Sicard's deaf-and-dumb pupil, 
gives of his notion of numbers in his comparatively untaught 
childhood : " I knew the numbers before my instruction, my 
fingers had taught me them. I did not know the ciphers ; I 
counted on my fingers, and when the number passed 10 I made 
notches on a bit of wood." ^ It is thus that all savage tribes 
have been taught arithmetic by their fingers. Mr. Oldfield, 

1 Oldfield in Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. iii. p. 291 ; Lang, ' Queensland,' p. 433 ; 
Latham, ' Comp. Phil.' p. 352. Other terms in Bonwick, 1. c. 

2 Sicard, 'Theorie des Signes pour I'lnstruction des Sourds-Muots, ' vol. ii. p. 


after giving the account just quoted of the capability of the 
Watchandie language to reach 4 by numerals, goes on to de- 
scribe the means by which the tribe contrive to deal with a 
harder problem in numeration. " I once wished to ascertain, 
the exact number of natives who had been slain on a certain 
occasion. The individual of whom I made the enquiry, began 
to think over the names .... assisfninof one of his ii niters to 

o o o 

each, and it was not until after many failures, and consequent 
fresh starts, that he was able to express so high a number, 
which he at length did by holding up his hand three times, thus 
giving me to understand that fifteen was the answer to this 
most difficult arithmetical question." Of the aborigines of 
Victoria, Mr. Stanbridge says : " They have no name for 
numerals above two, but by repetition they count to five ; they 
also record the days of the moon by means of the fingers, the 
bones and joints of the arms and the head."^ The Bororos of 
Brazil reckon: 1. couai; 2.macouai; S.ouai; and then go 
on counting on their fingers, repeating this ouai? Of course 
it no more follows among savages than among ourselves that, 
because a man counts on his fingers, his language must be 
w^anting in words to express the number he wishes to reckon. 
For example, it was noticed that when natives of Kamchatka 
were set to count, they would reckon all their fingers, and then 
all their toes, so getting up to 20, and then would ask, '^ What 
are we to do next ? " Yet it was found on examination that 
numbers up to 100 existed in their language.^ Travellers no- 
tice the use of finger-counting among tribes who can, if they 
choose, speak the number, and who either silently count it upon 
their fingers, or very usually accompany the word with the 
action ; nor indeed are either of these modes at all unfamiliar 
in modern Europe. Let Father Gumilla, one of the early Jesuit 
missionaries in South America, describe for us the relation of 
gesture to speech in counting, and at the same time bring to 
our minds very remarkable examples (to be paralleled else- 
where) of the action of consensus, whereby conventional rules 

1 Stanbridge in 'Tr. Etli. Soc' vol. i. p. 304. 

2 Martins, 'Gloss. BrasiL' p. 15. 

^ Kracbeninnikow, ' Karatchatka,' p. 17. 


become fixed among societies of men, even in so simple an art 
as that of counting on one's fingers. " Nobody among ourselves," 
he remarks, " except incidentally, would say for instance ' one,' 
*two,' etc, and give the number on his fingers as well, by 
touching them with the other hand. Exactly the contrary hap- 
pens among the Indians. They say, for instance, ' give me one 
pair of scissors,' and forthwith they raise one finger ; ' give me 
two,' and at once they raise two, and so on. They would never 
say ' five ' without showing a hand, never 'ten ' without holding 
out both, never ' twenty ' without adding up the fingers, placed 
opposite to the toes. Moreover, the mode of showing the num- 
bers with the fingers differs in each nation. To avoid prolixity, 
I give as an example the number ' three.' The Otomacs to 
say 'three' unite the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, 
keeping the others down. The Tamanacs show the little finger, 
the ring finger, and the middle finger, and close the other two. 
The Maipures, lastly, raise the fore, middle, and ring finger, 
keeping the other two hidden." ^ Throughout the world, the 
general relation between finger-counting and word-counting 
may be stated as follows. For readiness and for ease of appre- 
hension of numbers, a palpable arithmetic, such as is Avorked on 
finger-joints or fingers,^ or heaps of pebbles or beans, or the 
more artificial contrivances of the rosary or the abacus, has so 
great an advantage over reckoning in words as almost neces- 
sarily to precede it. Thus not only do we find finger-counting 
among savages and uneducated men, carrying on a part of 
their mental operations where language is only partly able to 
follow it, but it also retains a place and an undoubted use 

^ Gumilla, 'Historia del Orenoco,' vol. iii. ch. xlv. ; Pott, * Zahlmethode,' 
p. 16. 

^ The Eastern brokers have used for ages, and still use, the method of secretly 
indicating numbers to one another in bargaining, by " snipping fingers under a 
cloth." "Every joynt and every finger hath his signification," as an old tra- 
veller says, and the system seems a more or less artificial development of ordinary 
finger-counting, the thumb and little finger stretched out, and the other fingers 
closed, standing for 6 or 60, the addition of the fourth finger marking 7 or 70, and 
so on. It is said that between two brokers settling a price by thus snipping with 
the fingers, cleverness in bargaining, off'ering a little more, hesitating, expressing 
an obstinate refusal to go farther, and so forth, comes out just as in chaffering in 


among the most cultured nations, as a preparation for and 
means of acquiring higher arithmetical methods. 

Now there exists valid evidence to prove that a child learning 
to count upon its fingers does in a way reproduce a process of 
the mental history of the human race ; that in fact men counted 
upon their fingers before they found words for the numbers 
they thus expressed ; that in this department of culture, Word- 
language not only followed Gesture-language, but actually grew 
out of it. The evidence in question is principally that of lan- 
guage itself, which shows that, among many and distant tribes, 
men wanting to express 5 in words called it simply by their 
name for the hand which they held up to denote it, that in like 
manner they said two hands or half a man to denote 10, that 
the word foot carried on the reckoning up to 15, and to 20, which 
they described in words as in gesture by the hands and feet 
together, or as one man, and that lastly, by various expressions 
referring directly to the gestures of counting on the fingers and 
toes, they gave names to these and intermediate numerals. As 
a definite term is wanted to describe significant numerals of 
this class, it may be convenient to call them "hand-numerals " 
or " digit-numerals." A selection of typical instances will serve 
to make it probable that this ingenious device was not, at any 
rate generally, copied from one tribe by another or inherited 
from a common source, but that its working out with original 
character and curiously varying detail displays the recurrence 
of a similar but independent process of mental development 
among various races of man. 

Father Gilij, describing the arithmetic of the Tamanacs on 
the Orinoco, gives their numerals up to 4 : when they come 
to 5, they express it by the word amgnaitone, which being 
translated means " a whole hand " ; 6 is expressed by a term 
which translates the proper gesture into words itaconb amgna- 
^onob tevinitpe " one of the other hand," and so on up to 9. 
Coming to 10, they give it in words as amgna acepondre " both 
hands." To denote 11 they stretch out both the hands, and 
adding the foot they say puitta-ioond tevinitpe, '^ one to the 
foot," and so on up to 15, which is iptaitone ''a whole foot." 
Next follows 16, ''one to the other foot," and so on to 20, tevin 


itoto, " one Indian ; " 21, itacond itoto jamgndr bond tevinitioe, 
"one to the hands of the other Indian;" 40, acciache itoto, 
"two Indians/' and so on for GO, 80, 100, ''three, four, five 
Indians," and beyond if needful. South America is remarkably 
rich in such evidence of an early condition of finger-counting 
recorded in spoken language. Among its many other languages 
which have recognizable digit-numerals, the Cayriri, Tupi, 
Abipone, and Carib rival the Tamanac in their systematic way 
of working out "hand," "hands," "foot," "feet," etc. Others 
show slighter traces of the same process, where, for instance, the 
numerals 5 or 10 are found to be connected with words for 
" hand," etc., as when the Omagua uses pua, " hand," for 5, and 
reduplicates this into upapua for 10. In some South American 
languages a man is reckoned by fingers and toes up to 20, 
while in contrast to this, there are two languages which dis- 
play a miserably low mental state, the man counting only one 
hand, thus stopping short at 5 ; the Juri gJiomen'^apa ''one 
man," stands for 5 ; the Cayriri ibichS is used to mean both 
"person" and 5. Digit-numerals are not confined to tribes 
standing, like these, low or high within the limits of savagery. 
The Muyscas of Bogota were among the more civilized native 
races of America, ranking with the Peruvians in their culture, 
yet the same method of formation which appears in the lan- 
guage of the rude Tamanacs is to be traced in that of the 
Muyscas, who, when they come to 11, 12, 13, counted quiJiicha 
ata, bosa, mica, i.e., "foot one, two, three." i To turn to North 
America, Cranz, the Moravian missionary, thus describes about 
a century ago the numeration of the Greenlanders. " Their 
numerals," he says, "go not far, and with them the proverb 
holds that they can scarce count five, for they reckon by the 
five fingers and then get the help of the toes on their feet, and 
so with labour bring out twenty." The modern Greenland 
grammar gives the numerals much as Cranz does, but more 
fully. The word for 5 is tatdlimat, which there is some ground 
for supposing to have once meant " hand ;" 6 is arfinelc-attauseh, 

J ,^^^^J '' *f ^SS^^ ^i Storia Americana,' vol. ii. p. 332 (Tamanac, Maypure) 
Martms 'Gloss. Brasil.' (Cayriri, Tupi, Carib, Omagua, Juri, Guachi, Coretu,' 
Cherentes Maxuruna, Caripuna, Cauixaua, Carajas, Coroado, etc.) ; Dobriz- 
hoffer, Abipones,' vol. ii. p. 16S ; Humboldt, 'Mouumens,' pi. xliv. (Muysca). 



" on the other hand one/' or more shortly arfiriigdlit, " those 
which have on the other hand;" 7 is arfinek-inardluk, "on the 
other hand two;" 13 is arkanek-pingasiit, "on the first foot 
three ;" 18 is arfersanek-ijingasut, " on the other foot three ;" 
when they reach 20, they can say inuk ndvdhtgo, "a man 
ended," or inui^ avatai ndvdlugit " the man's outer members 
ended;" and thus by counting several men they reach higher 
numbers, thus expressing, for example, 53 as inilp pingajugs- 
sdne arkanek-pingasiit, " on the third man on the first foot 
three." ^ If we pass from the rude Greenlanders to the com- 
paratively civilized Aztecs, we shall find on the Northern as on 
the Southern continent traces of early finger-numeration sur- 
viving among higher races. The Mexican names for the first 
four numerals are as obscure in etymology as our own. But 
when we come to 5 we find this expressed by macuilli, and as 
ona (ma-itl) means " hand," and cuiloa " to paint or depict," it 
is likely that the word for 5 may have meant something like 
"hand-depicting." In 10, onatlacUi, the word ma, "hand," 
appears again, and tlactli means half, and is represented in the 
Mexican picture-writings by the figure of half a man from the 
waist upward ; thus it appears that the Aztec 10 means the 
"hand-half" of a man, just as among the Towka Indians of 
South America 10 is expressed as " half a man," a whole man 
being 20. When the Aztecs reach 20 they call it cempoalli, 
" one counting," Avith evidently the same meaning as elsewhere, 
one whole man, fingers and toes. 

Among races of the lower culture elsewhere, similar facts are 
to be observed. The Tasmanian language again shows the 
man stopping short at the reckoning of himself when he has 
held up one hand and counted its fingers ; for here, as in the 
two South American tribes before laentioned, puggana, "man," 
stands for 5. Some of the West Australian tribes have done 
much better than this, using their word for " hand," onarh-ra ; 
7narh-jin-hang-ga, " half the hands," is 5 ; inaTh-jin-hang-ga- 
gndjir-gyn, "half the hands and one," is 6, and so on ; Tnarh- 
jin-helli-belli-gudjir-jina-hang-ga, " the hand on either side 

1 Cranz, * Gronland,' p. 286; ' Kleinschmidt. Gr. der Gronl. Spr. ;' Rae in 
*Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iv. p. 145. 


and half the feet," is 15.^ As an example from the Melanesiaii 
languages, the Mare will serve ; it reckons 10 as ome re rue 
tuhenine apparently '' the two sides" (i.e. both hands), 20 as sa 
re ngome ■' one man," etc. ; thus in John v. 5 " which had an 
infirmity thirty and eight years," the numeral 38 is expressed 
by the phrase, "one man and both sides five and three."" In 
the Malayo-Polynesian languages, the typical word for 5 is lima 
or rima " hand," and the connexion is not lost by the phonetic 
variations among different branches of this family of languages, 
as in Malagasy climy, Marquesan fima, Tongan Qiiraa, but 
while lima and its varieties mean 5 in almost all Malayo- 
Polynesian dialects, its meaning of " hand" is confined to a 
much narrower district, showing that the word became more 
permanent by passing into the condition of a traditional 
numeral. In languages of the Malayo-Polynesian family, it is 
usually found that 6 etc., are carried on with words whose 
etymology is no longer obvious, but the forms Imia-sa, liona- 
zua, " hand-one," ''' hand-two," have been found doing duty for 
6 and 7.' In West Africa, Kolle's account of the Yei language 
gives a case in point. These negroes are so dependent on their 
fingers that some can hardly count without, and their toes are 
convenient as the calculator squats on the ground. The Vei 
people and many other African tribes, when counting, first 
count the fingers of their left hand, beginning, be it remembered, 
from the little one, then in the same manner those of the 
right hand, and afterwards the toes. The Vei numeral for 20 
mo bdnde means obviously " a person (mo) is finished (bande)," 
and so on with 40, 60, 80, etc. " two men, three men, four men, 
etc., are finished." It is an interesting point that the negroes 
who used these phrases had lost their original descriptive sense 
— the words had become mere numerals to them."*" Lastly, 
for bringing before our minds a picture of the man counting 
upon his fingers, and being struck by the idea that if he 

^ Millif^aii, 1. c. ; G. F. Moore, 'Vocab. W. x\ustralia.' Compare a scries of 
quinary numerals to 9, from Sydney, in Pott, * Zalilmethode,' p. 46. 

2 Gabelentz, * Melanesiclie Sprachen,' p. 183. 

^ W. V. Humboldt, ' Kawi Spr.' vol. ii. p. 308 ; corroborated by 'As. Res.' 
vol. vi. p. 90; 'Journ. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. iii. p. 182, etc. 

4 Koelle, 'Gr. of Vei. Lang.' p. 27. 

Q 2 


describes his gesture in words, these words may become an 
actual name for the number, perhaps no language of the world 
surpasses the Zulu. The Zulu counting on his fingers begins in 
general with the little finger of his left hand. When he comes 
to 5, this he may call edesanta "finish hand ;" then he goes on 
to the thumb of the right hand, aiKl so the word tatisitupa 
"taking the thumb" becomes a numeral for 6. Then the verb 
Jcomha " to point/' indicating the forefinger, or " pointer," 
makes the next numeral, 7. Thus, answering the question 
"How much did your master give you ?" a Zulu would say "U 
JcGonbile'' "He pointed with his forefinger," i.e., "He gave me 
seven,'* and this curious way of using the numeral verb is shown 
in such an example as " amahashi aJcomhile'' "the horses have 
pointed," i.e., " there were seven of them." In like manner, 
Kijangalohili "keep back two lingers," i.e., 8, and Kijangalo- 
hmje " keep back one finger," i.e., 9, lead on to kumi, 10 ; at 
the completion of each ten the two hands with open fingers are 
clapped together. ^ 

The theory that man's primitive mode of counting was pal- 
pable reckoning on his hands, and the proof that many numerals 
in present use are actually derived from such a state of things, 
is a great step towards discovering the origin of numerals in 
general. Can we go farther, and state broadly the mental pro- 
cess by which savage men, having no numeral as yet in their 
language, came to invent them ? What was the origin of 
numerals not named with reference to hands and feet, and 
especially of the numerals below five, to which such a derivation 
is hardly appropriate ? The subject is a peculiarly difficult one. 
Yet as to principle it is not altogether obscure, for some 
evidence is forthcoming as to the actual formation of new 
numeral words, these being made by simply pressing into the 
service names of objects or actions in some Avay appropriate to 
the purpose. 

People possessing full sets of inherited numerals in their own 
languages have nevertheless sometimes found it convenient to 
invent new ones. Thus the scholars of India, ages ago, selected 

1 Schreuder, 'Gr. for Zulu Sproget,' p. 30 ; Dolme, 'Zulu Die.;' Grout, 'Zulu 
Or.' See Halm, * Gr. des Herero.' 


a set of words for a memoria technica in order to record dates and 
numbers. These words they chose for reasons which are still in 
great measure evident; thus "moon" or "earth" expressed 1, 
there being but one of each ; 2 might be called " eye/' " wing," 
"arm/' "jaw/' as going in pairs; for 3 they said "Rama/' 
" fire/' or " quality/' there being considered to be three E-amas, 
three kinds of fire, three qualities (guna) ; for 4 were used 
" veda," " age/' or " ocean," there being four of each recognized; 
"season" for 6, because they reckoned six seasons; " sage " or 
" vowel " for 7, from the seven sages and the seven vowels ; and 
so on with hiidier numbers, " sun " for 12, because of his twelve 
annual denominations, or " zodiac " from its twelve signs, and 
" nail" for 20, a word incidentally bringing in a finger-notation. 
As Sanskrit is very rich in synonyms, and as even the numerals 
themselves might be used, it became very easy to draw up 
phrases or nonsense-verses to record series of numbers by this 
system of artificial memory. The following is a Hindu astro- 
nomical formula, a list of numbers referring to the stars of the 
lunar constellations. Each v^ord stands as the mnemonic equi- 
valent of the number placed over it in the English translation. 
The general jDrinciple on which the words are chosen to denote 
the numbers is evident without further explanation : — • 

' ' Yahni tri rtvishu gunendu kritagnibhuta 
B^nasvinetra 9ara bhuku yugabdlii ram^h. 
Eudrabdhiramagunaveda9ata dviyugma 
Danta budhairabhihitah. krama^o bhatarfJi." 

3 3 6 5 3 1 4 _ 

i, e., *' Fire, three, season, arrow, quahtj^ moon, four-side of die, 
3 5 

fire, element, 
5 22 5 1144 3 

Arrov/, Asvin, eye, arrow, earth, earth, age, ocean, Ramas, 

11 4 3 3 4 100 2 2 

Eudra, ocean, Eama, qualitj'', Veda, hundred, two, couple, 

Teeth : by the wise have been set forth in order the mighty lords." ^ 

^ Sir W. Jones in * As. Res.' vol, ii. 1790, p. 29G ; E. Jacquetin * Nouv. Jonrn. 
Asiat.' 1835 ; W. v. Humboldt, 'Kawi-Spr. ' vol. i. p. 19. This system of re- 
cording dates, etc., extended as far as Tibet and the Indian Archipelago. 
Many important points of Oriental chronology depend on such formulas. Un- 
fortunately'' their evidence is more or less vitiated by inconsistencies in the use 
of words for numbers. 


It occurred to Wilhelm von Humboldt, in studying this 
curious system of numeration, that he had before his eyes the 
evidence of a process very like that which actually produced the 
regular numeral words one, Uuo, three, and so forth, in the 
various languages of the world. The following passage in 
which, more than thirty years ago, he set forth this view, seems 
to me to contain a nearly perfect key to the theory of numeral 
words. " If Ave take into consideration the origin of actual 
numerals, the process of their formation appears evidently to 
have been the same as that here described. The latter is 
nothinor else than a wider extension of the former. For when 5 
is expressed, as in several languages of the Malay family, by 
' hand ' (Imia), this is precisely the same thing as when in the 
description of numbers by words, 2 is denoted by ' wing.' In- 
disputably there lie at the root of all numerals such metaphors as 
these, though they cannot always be now traced. But people 
seem early to have felt that the multiplicity of such signs for 
the same number was superfluous, too clumsy, and leading to 
misunderstandings." Therefore, he goes on to argue, synonyms 
of numerals are very rare. And to nations with a deep sense of 
langua^ge, the feeling must soon have been present, though perhaps 
without rising to distinct consciousness, that recollections of the 
original etymology and descriptive meaning of numerals had 
best be allowed to disappear, so as to leave the numerals them- 
selves to become mere conventional terms. 

The most instructive evidence I have found bearing on the 
formation of numerals, other than digit-numerals, among the 
lower races, belongs to the great Malay-Polynesian-Australian 
district. In Australia a very curious case occurs. Yvith all the 
povertj^ of the aboriginal languages in numerals, 3 being com- 
monly used as meaning '^ several or many," the natives in the 
Adelaide district have for a particular purpose gone far beyond 
this narrow limit, and possess what is to all intents a special 
numeral system, extending perhaps to 9. They give fixed 
names to their children in order of age, which are set down as- 
follows by Mr. Eyre : 1. Kertameru ; 2. Warritya ; 3. Kud- 
nutya ; 4. Monaitya ; 5. Milaitya ; 6. Marrutya ; 7. Wangutya ;, 
8. Ngarlaitya; 9. Pouarna. These are the male names, from 


which the female differ in termination. They are given at 
birth, more distinctive appellations being soon afterwards 
chosen.^ It is interestinsf that a somewhat similar habit makes 
its appearance among the Malays, who in some districts arc 
reported to use a series of seven names in order of age, begin- 
ning with 1. Suliioig (" eldest ") ; 2. Aiuang (" friend, compa- 
nion "), and ending with KecJiil, ('' little one,") or Bongsu 
("youngest"). These are for sons; daughters have Meh pre- 
fixed, and nicknames have to be used for practical distinction.^ 
In Madagascar, the Malay connexion manifests itself in the 
appearance of a similar set of appellations given to children in 
lieu of proper names, which are, however, often substituted in 
after years. Males; Lahimatoa ("first male"), Lah-ivo ("in- 
termediate male ") ; Ra-fara-lahy (" last born male "). Females; 
Raviatoa (" eldest female "), Ra-ivo (" intermediate "), Ret- 
fara-vavy ('' last born female ").^ As to numerals in the ordi- 
nary sense, Pol3mesia shows remarkable cases of new formation. 
Besides the well-known system of numeral words prevalent in 
Polynesia, exceptional terms have from time to time grown up. 
Thus the habit of altering words which sounded too nearly like 
a king's name, has led the Tahitians on the accession of new 
chiefs to make several new words for numbers. Thus, wanting 
a new term for 2 instead of the ordinary riia, they for obvious 
reasons took up the word piti, " together," and made it a 
numeral, while to get a new word for 5 instead of rimc6, 
" hand," which had to be discontinued, they substituted j^ae, 
" part, division," meaning probably division of the two hands. 
Such words as these, introduced in Polynesia for ceremonial 
reasons, are expected to be dropped again and the old ones 
replaced, when the reason for their temporary exclusion ceases, 

^ Eyre, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 32 i : SliilrmanE, 'Vocab. of Parnkalla Lang.' 
gives forms partially corresponding. 

2 * Joiirn. Ind. Arcliip.' New Ser. vol. ii. 1858, p. 118 ; [Suloiig, AAvang, 
Itam ('black'), Piiteh ('white'), Allang, Pendeh, Kechil or Bongsu] ; Bastian, 
' Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 494. The details are imperfectly given, and seem not 
all correct. 

3 Ellis, ' Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 154. Also, Andriampaivo, or Lahi-Zaudrina, 
for last male ; Andrianivo for intermediatemale. Malagasy lahy * male ' = Malay 
laki; Malagasy vain/, 'female '= Ton gan/ft^?ic, Maori wa/tmc, 'woman;' comp. 
Malay hdtina, 'female.' 


yet the new 2 and 5, 2^iti and pae, became so positively the 
proper numerals of the language, that they stand instead of rua 
and rima in the Taliitian translation of the Gospel of St. John 
made at the time. Again, various special habits of counting in 
the South Sea Islands have had their effect on language. The 
Marquesans, counting fish or fruit by one in each hand, have 
come to use a system of counting by pairs instead of by units. 
They start with tauna, "a pair," which thus becomes a numeral 
equivalent to 2 ; then they count onward by pairs, so that when 
they talk of tahau or 10, they really mean 10 pair or 20. For 
bread-fruit, as they are accustomed to tie them up in knots of 
four, they begin with the word ^jona, " knot," which thus be- 
comes a real numeral for 4, and here again they go on counting 
by knots, so that when they say taJcau or 10, they mean 10 
knots or 40. The philological mystification thus caused in 
Polynesian vocabularies is extraordinary ; in Tahitian, etc., rau 
and onano, properly meaning 100 and 1,000, have come to signify 
200 and 2,000, while in Hawaii a second doubling in their sense 
makes them equivalent to 400 and 4,000. Moreover, it seems 
possible to trace the transfer of suitable names of objects still 
farther in Polynesia in the Tongan and Maori word tekau, 10, 
which seems to have been a word for " parcel " or " bunch," 
used in counting yams and fish, as also in tefulii, 100, derived 
from, fuhi, "sheaf or bundle." ^ 

In Africa, also, special numeral formations are to be noticed. 
In the Yoruba language, 40 is called ogodzi, " a string," because 
cowries are strung by forties, and 200 is igha, " a heap," mean- 
ing again a heap of cowries. Among the Dahomans in like 
manner, 40 cowries make a hade or " string," 50 strings make 
one afo or " head ; " these words becoming numerals for 40 and 
2,000. When the king of Dahome attacked Abeokuta, it is on 
record that he was repulsed with the heavy loss of " two heads, 
twenty strings, and twenty cowries" of men, that is to say, 4,820.^ 

Among cultured nations, whose languages are most tightly 

^ H. Hale, ' Ethnography and Philology,' vol. vi. of Wilkes, U. S. Exploring 
Exp., Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 172, 289. (N.B. The ordinary editions do not 
contain this important volume.) 

' Bowen, * Gr. and Die. of i^oruba.' Burton in ' Mem. Authroj). Soc' vol. i. 
p. 314. 


bound to the conventional and unintelligible numerals of their 
ancestors, it is likewise usual to find other terms existing which 
are practically numerals already, and might drop at once into the 
recognized place of such, if by any chance a gap were made for 
them in the traditional series. Had we room, for instance, for 
a new word instead of tivo, then eii\iei pair (Latin 'par, " equal ") 
or couple (Latin copula, " bond or tie,") is ready to fill its place. 
Instead of twenty, the good English word score, " notch," v/ill 
serve our turn, while, for the same pur|)ose, German can use 
stiege, possibly with the original sense of " a stall full of cattle, a 
sty ; " Old Norse drott, " a company," Danish, snees. A list of 
such words used, but not grammatically classed as numerals in 
European languages, shows great variety : examples are, Old 
Norse, flocJcr (fiock), 5 ; sveit, 6 ; drdtt (party), 20 ; thiodh 
(people), 30 ; folk (people), 40 ; old (people), 80 ; her (army), 
100 ; Sleswig, scliilk, 12 (as though we were to make a word 
out of " shilling ") ; Mid High-German, rotte, 4 ; New High- 
German, raandel, 15 ; schock (sheaf), 60. The Letts give a 
curious parallel to Polynesian cases just cited. They throw 
crabs and little fish three at a time in counting them, and 
therefore the word 'inettens, " a throw," has come to mean 3 ; 
while flounders being fastened in lots of thirty, the word kahlis, 
" a cord," becomes a term to express this number. ^ 

In two other ways, the production of numerals from merely 
descriptive words may be observed both among lower and 
higher races. The Gallas have no numerical fractional terms, 
but they make an equivalent set of terms from the divi- 
sion of the cakes of salt which they use as money. Thus 
tchahnana, "a broken piece " (from tchaha, " to break," as we 
say "a fraction"), receives the meaning of one-half; a term 
which we may compare with Latin dimidium, French demi. 
Ordinal numbers are generally derived from cardin?ol numbers, 
as third, fourth, fifth, from three, four, five. But among the 
very low ones there is to be seen evidence of independent 
formation quite unconnected with a conventional system of 
numerals already existing. Thus the Greenlander did not use 

^ See Pott, ' Zahlmetliode,' pp. 78, 99, 124, 161; Grimm, * Deutsche Reclits- 
altcrthiimer,' ch. v. 


his "one" to make "first," but calls it sujitgdleJc, "foremost," 
nor "two "to make " second," which he calls aipd, "his com- 
panion ;" it is only at "third" that he takes to his cardinals, 
and forms pingajuat in connexion with pingasut, 3. So, in 
Indo-European languages, the ordinal pvathamaSy irpcoros, 
'primus y first, has nothing to do with a numerical *' one," but 
with the preposition jpra, " before," as meaning simply " fore- 
most ; " and although Greeks and Germans call the next ordinal 
Seurepo?, zweite, from bvo, ziuei, we call it second, Latin secun- 
dus, " the following " (sequi), which is again a descriptive 

If we allow ourselves to mix for a moment what is wdth what 
might be, we can see how unlimited is the field of possible 
growth of numerals by mere adoption of the names of familiar 
things. Following the example of the Sleswigers we might 
make shilling a numeral for 12, and go on to express 4 by 
groat ; vjeeJc would provide us with a name for 7, and clover 
for 3. But this simple method of description is not the onty 
available one for the purpose of making numerals. The mo- 
ment any series of names is arranged in regular order in our 
minds, it becomes a counting-machine. I have read of a little 
girl who was set to count cards, and she counted them accord- 
ingly, January, February, March, April. She might, of course,, 
have reckoned them as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It is 
interesting to find a case coming under the same class in the- 
language of grown people. We know that the numerical 
value of the Hebrew letters is given with reference to their 
place in the alphabet, which was arranged for reasons that can 
hardly have had much to do with arithmetic. The Greek 
alphabet is modified from a Semitic one, but instead of letting 
the numeral value of their letters follow throughout their newly- 
arranged alphabet, they reckon a, 0, y, 8, e, properly as 1, 2, 3, 
4, 5, then put in r for 6, and so manage to let t stand for 
10, as "^ does in Hebrew, where it is really the 10th letter. 
Now, having this conventional arrangement of letters made, it 
is evident that a Greek who had to give up the regular 1, 2, 3 
— ds, hvo, Tpels, could supply their places at once by adopting 
the names of the letters which had been settled to stand for 


them, thus calHng 1 al])lia, 2 heta, 3 gamma, and so forth. The 
thing has actually happened ; a remarkable slang dialect of 
Albania, which is Greek in structure, though full of borrowed 
and mystified words and metaphors and epithets understood 
only by the initiated, has, as its equivalent for '' four " and 
" ten," the vv^ords hikra and lu^ra. ^ 

While insisting on the value of such evidence as this in 
making out the general principles of the formation of numerals, 
I have not found it profitable to undertake the task of etymolo- 
gizing the actual numerals of the languages of the world, 
outside the safe limits of the systems of digit-numerals among 
the lower races, already discussed. There may be in the lan- 
guages of the lower races other relics of the etymology of 
numerals, giving the clue to the ideas according to which they 
were selected for an arithmetical purpose, but such relics seem 
scanty and indistinct. ^ There may even exist vestiges of a 
growth of numerals from descriptive words in our Indo-European 
languages, in Hebrew and Arabic, in Chinese. Such etymolo- 
gies have been brought forward,^ and they are consistent with 

^ Francisqiie-Micliel, ' Argot,' p. 483. 

" Of evidence of this class, the following deserves attention : — Dobiizhoffer 
''Abipones,' vol. ii. p. 169, gives geycnkncUe, * ostrich-toes,' as the numeral 
for 4, their ostrich having three toes before and one behind, and ncenhcdeJc, ' a 
five-coloured spotted hide,' as the numeral 5. D'Orbigny, * L'Homme Ameri- 
cain,' vol. ii. p. 163, remarks : — '* Les Chiquitos ne savent compter que jusqu'a, 
un {lama), n'ayant plus ensuite que des termes de comparaison." Kolle, * Gr. of 
Vei Lang.,' notices that /era means both *with' and 2, and thinks the former 
meaning original, (compare the Tah. ?.n^2, 'together,' thence 2.) Quichua c/m?ic?4, 
* heap,' cJmnca, 10, may be connected, Aztec, cc, 1, ccn-tli, 'grain' may be con- 
nected. On possible derivations of 2 from hand, &c., especially Hottentot Vkoam, 
'hand, 2,' see Pott, ' Ziihlmethode,' p. 29. 

3 See Farrar, 'Chapters on Language,' p. 223. Benloew, * Kecherches sur 
rOrigine des Noms de Nombre;' Pictet, ' Origines Indo-Europ.' part ii. ch. 
ii. ; Pott, 'Ziihlmethode,' p. 128, etc. ; A. v. Humboldt's plausible comparison 
between Skr. ^;auc7i«, 5, and Pers. ^;cyyc7t, 'the palm of the hand with the 
fingers spread out ; the outspread foot of a bird,' as though 5 were called imncha. 
from being like a hand, is erroneous. The Persian pcnjch is itself derived from the 
numeral 5, as in Skr. the hand is called panchagdkha, 'the five-branched.' 
The same formation is found in English ; slang describes a man's hand as his 
' fives,' or 'bunch of fives,' thence the name of the game of fives, played by 
striking the ball with the open hand, a term which has made its way out of slang 
into accepted language. Burton describes tlie polite Arab at a meal, calling his 
companion's attention to a grain of rice fallen into his beard. "The gazelle is in 


what is known of the prmciples on which numerals or quasi- 
numerals are really formed. But so far as I have been able to 
examine tlie evidence, the cases all seem so philologically 
doubtful, that I cannot bring them forward in aid of the theory 
before us, and, indeed, think that if they succeed in establishing 
themselves, it vfill be by the theory supporting them, rather 
than by their supporting the theory. This state of things, 
indeed, fits perfectly with the view here adopted, that when a 
word has once been taken up to serve as a numeral, and is 
thenceforth wanted as a mere symbol, it becomes the interest 
of language to allow it to break down into an apparent non- 
sense-word, from which all traces of original etymology have 

Etymological research into the derivation of numeral words 
thus hardly goes with safety beyond showing in the languages 
of the lower culture frequent instances of digit numerals, words 
taken from direct description of the gestures of counting on 
fingers and toes. Beyond this, another strong argument is avail- 
able, which indeed covers almost the whole range of the problem. 
The numerical systems of the world, by the actual schemes of 
their arrangement, extend and confirm the opinion that count- 
ing on fingers and toes was man's original method of reckoning, 
taken up and represented in language. To count the fingers of 
one hand up to 5, and then to go on with a second five, is a no- 
tation by fives, or as it is called, a quinary notation. To count 
by the use of both hands to 10, and thence to reckon by tens, 
is a decimal notation. To go on by hands and feet to 20, and 
thence to reckon by twenties, is a vigesimal notation. Now 
though in the larger proportion of known languages, no distinct 
mention of fingers and toes, hands and feet, is observable in the 
numerals themselves, yet the very schemes of quinary, decimal, 
and vigesimal notation remain to vouch for such hand-and- 
foot-counting having been the original method on which they 
were founded. There seems no doubt that the number of the 
fingers led to the adoption of the not especially suitable number 
10 as a period in reckoning, so that decimal arithmetic is based 

the garden," lie says, witli a smile. " "VVe "will limit her with the fivCy' is the 


on human anatomy. This is so obvious, that it is curious to see 
Ovid in his well-known lines putting the two facts close together, 
without seeing that the second was the consequence of the 
first : 

*' Annus erat, decimum cum luna receperat orbem. 

Hie numerus magno tunc in honore fuit. 
Sen quia tot digiti, per quos numerare solemus : 

Seu quia bis quino femina mense parit : 
Seu quod ad usque decern numero crescente venitur, 

Principium spatiis sumitur inde no vis." ^ 

In surveying the languages of the world at large, it is found 
that among tribes or nations far enough advanced in arithmetic 
to count up to five in words, there prevails, with scarcely an 
exception, a method founded on hand-counting, quinary, deci- 
mal, vigesimal, or combined of these. For perfect examples of 
the quinary method, we may take a Polynesian series which 
runs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5'1, 5*2, &c. ; or a Melanesian series which 
may be rendered as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2nd 1, 2nd 2, &c. Quinary 
leading into decimal is well shown in the Fellata series 1 ... 5, 
51 ... 10, 101 . . . 10-5, 10-51 ... 20, ... SO, ... 40, etc. Pure 
decimal may be instanced from Hebrew 1, 2 ... 10, 10"1 ... 20, 
20*1 . . . &c. Pure vigesimal is not usual, for the obvious reason 
that a set of independent numerals to 20 would be inconvenient, 
but it takes on from quinary, as in Aztec, which may be ana- 
lyzed as 1, 2 . . 5, 51 . . . 10, 10-1 . . . 10*5, 10-51 ... 20, 20*1 
. . . 20-10, 20-10-1 . . . 40, &c. ; or from decimal, as in Basque, 
1 ... 10, 101 ... 20, 20-1 . . . 2010, -20101 ... 40, etc.^ It 
seems unnecessary to bring forward here the mass of linguistic 
details required for any general demonstration of these prin- 
ciples of numeration among the races of the world. Prof Pott, of 
Halle, has treated the subject on elaborate philological evidence, 
in a special monograph,^ which is incidentally the most exten- 

1 Ovid. Fast. iii. 121. 

^ The actual word-numerals of tlie two quinary series are given as examples. 
Triton's Bay, 1, samosi ; 2, roeeti ; 3. touwroe ; 4, faat ; 5, rimi; 6, rim-samos ; 
7, rim-roecti ; 8, rim-towvroe ; 9, rira-faat ; 10, woetsja. Lifu, 1, pacha; 2, lo ; 
3, Tcrni; 4, thack ; 5, thabumb ; 6, lo-acha ; 7, lo-a-lo ; 8, lo-kunn ; 9, lo-thack ; 
10, ie-bennetc. 

^ A. F. Pott, ' Die Quinlire und Vigesimale Zahlmethode bei Volkern aller 


sive collection of details relating to numerals, indispensable to 
students occupied with such enquiries. For the present pur- 
20ose the following rough generalization may suffice, that the 
quinary system is frequent among the lower races, among whom 
also the vigesimal system is considerably developed, but the 
tendency of the higher nations has been to avoid the one as too 
scanty, and the other as too cumbrous, and to use the inter- 
mediate decimal system. These differences in the usage of 
various tribes and nations do not interfere with, but rather 
confirm, the general principle which is their common cause, 
that man originally learnt to reckon from his fingers and toes, 
and in various ways stereotyped in language the results of this 
primitive method. 

Some curious points as to the relation of these systems may 
be noticed in Europe. It was observed of a certain deaf-and- 
dumb boy, Oliver Caswell, that he learnt to count as high as 50 
on his fingers, but always " fived," reckoning, for instance, 18 
objects as "both hands, one hand, three fingers.^ The sugges- 
tion has been made that the Greek use of TieixiiaCuv, " to five," 
as an expression for counting, is a trace of rude old quinary 
numeration, (compare Finnish loJcket " to count," from lokke 
" ten.") Certainly, the Koman numerals I, II, ... V, YI . . . 
X, XI . . . XY, XYI, etc., form a remarkably well-defined 
Avritten quinary system. Kemains of vigesimal counting are still 
more instructive. Counting by twenties is a strongly marked 
Keltic characteristic. The cumbrous vigesimal notation could 
hardly be brought more strongly into view in any savage race 
than in such examples as Gaelic aon deug is da fhichead 
"one, ten, and two twenties," i.e., 51; or Welsh unarbymtheg 
ar ugain " one and fifteen over twenty," i. e., 36 ; or Breton 
unnek ha tri-ugent " eleven and three twenties," i. e., 71. Now 
French, being a Komance language, has a regular system of 
Latin tens up to 100 ; cinquante, soixante, septante, huitante, 
oionante, which are to be found still in use in districts within 
the limits of the French language, as in Belgium. Nevertheless, 

lYelttheile,* Halle, 1847; supplemented in *Eestgabe zur xxv. Versammlung 
Deutscher Philologen, etc., in Halle ' (1867). 
1 'Account of Laura Erklgraan,* London, 184-5, p. 159. 


the clumsy system of reckoning by twenties has broken out 
through the decimal system in France. The septante is to a 
great extent suppressed, soixante-qiiatorze, for instance, standino^ 
for 74 ; quatre-vingts has fairly established itself for 80, and its 
use contmues into the nineties, as quatre-vingt-treize for 93 • 
m numbers above 100 we find six-vingis, sept-vingts, huit- 
vingts, for 120, 140, 160, and a certain hospital has its name of 
Les Quinze-vingts from its 300 inmates. It is, perhaps, the 
most reasonable explanation of this curious phenomenon, to 
suppose the earlier Keltic system of France to have held its 
ground, modelling the later French into its own ruder shape. In 
England, the Anglo-Saxon numeration is decimal, Imnd-seo- 
fontig, 70 ; hund-eahtatig, 80 ; hund-nigontig, 90 ; Imnd-teon- 
tig, 100; hund-enlufontig, 110; hund-tiuelftig, 120. It may 
be here also by Keltic survival that the vigesimal reckoning by 
the "score," threescore and ten, fourscore and thirteen,''etc., 
gained a position in English which it has not yet totally lost.i ' 
From some minor details in numeration, ethnological hints 
may be gained. Among rude tribes with scanty series of nume- 
rals, combination to make out new numbers is very soon resorted 
to. ^ Among Austrahan tribes addition makes " two-one," "two- 
two," express 3 and 4; in Guachi "two-two" is 4 /in San 
Antonio " four and two-one " is 7. The plan of making nume- 
rals by subtraction is known in North America, and is well 
shown in the Aino language of Yesso, where the words for 8 and 
9 obviously mean "two from ten," "one from ten." Multipli- 
cation appears, as in San Antonio, " two-and-one-two," and in a 
Tupi dialect " two-three," to express 6. Division 'seems not 
known for such purposes among the lower races, and quite 
exceptionally among the higher. Facts of this class show 
variety in the inventive devices of mankind, and independence 
m their formation of language. They are consistent at the 
same time with the general principles of hand-countino- The 
traces of what might be called binary, ternary, quaternary, 

' Compare the Ilajmahali tribes adopting Hindi numerals, yet reckoning, by 
twenties Shaw, 1. c. The use of a ' score' as an indefinite number in En.fand 
and similarly of 20 in France, of 40 in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the 
Arabic the Thousand and One Nights, maybe among other tr^ce of l-^J: 
vigesimal reckoning. ^ 


senary reckoning, which turn on 2, 3, 4, 6, are mere varieties, 
leading up to, or lapsing into, quinary and decimal methods. 

The contrast is a striking one between the educated European, 
with his easy use of his boundless numeral series, and the 
Tasmanian, who reckons 3, or anything beyond 2, as "many," 
and makes shift by his whole hand to reach the limit of "man," 
that is to say, 5. This contrast is due to arrest of development 
in the savage, whose mind remains in the childish state which 
one of our nursery number-rhymes illustrates in a curiously 
perfect way. It runs — 

*' One 's none, 
Two 's some, 
Three 's a many, 
Four 's a j^enny, 
Pive 's a little hundred." 

To notice this state of things among savages and children 
raises interesting points as to the early history of grammar. W. 
von Humboldt suggested the analogy between the savage notion 
of 3 as "many '* and the grammatical use of 3 to form a kind of 
superlative, in forms of which " trismegistus," " ter felix," 
"thrice blest," are familiar instances. The relation of single, 
dual, and plural is well shown pictorially in the Egyptian hiero- 
glyphics, where the picture of an object, a horse for instance, is 
marked by a single line | if but one is meant, by two lines 1 1 
if two are meant, by three lines | 1 1 if three or an indefinite 
plural number are meant. The scheme of grammatical number 
in some of the most ancient and important languages of the 
world is laid down on the same savage principle. Egyptian, 
Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Gothic, are examples of lan- 
guages using singular, dual, and plural number; but the ten- 
dency of higher intellectual culture has been to discard the plan 
as inconvenient and unprofitable, and only to distinguish sin- 
gular and plural. No doubt the dual held its place by inherit- 
ance from an early period of culture, and Dr. D. Wilson seems 
justified in his opinion that it "presei-ves to us the memorial of 
that stage of thought when all beyond two was an idea of 
indefinite number."^ 

1 D. Wilson, ' Prehistoric Mau,' p. 616. 


When two races at different levels of culture come into con- 
tact, the ruder people adopt new art and knowledge, but at the 
same time their own special culture usually comes to a stand- 
still, and even falls off. It is thus with the art of counting. 
We may be able to prove that the lower race had actually been 
making great and independent progress in it, but when the 
higher race comes with a convenient and unlimited means of 
not only naming all imaginable numbers, but of writing them 
down and reckoning with them by means of a few simple 
figures, what likelihood is there that the barbarian's clumsy 
methods should be farther worked out? As to the ways in 
which the numerals of the superior race are grafted on the lan- 
guage of the inferior, Captain Grant describes the native slaves 
of Equatorial Africa occupying their lounging hours in learnino- 
the numerals of their Arab masters.^ Father Dobrizhoffer's 
account of the arithmetical relations between the native Bra- 
zilians and the Jesuits is a good description of the intellectual 
contact between savages and missionaries. The Guaranis, it 
appears, counted up to 4 with their native numerals, and when 
they got beyond, they would say "innumerable." "But as 
counting is both of manifold use in common life, and in the 
confessional absolutely indispensable in making a complete con- 
fession, the Indians were daily taught at the public catechising 
in the church to count in Spanish. On Sundays the whole 
people used to count with a loud voice in Spanish, from 1 to 
1,000." The missionary, it is true, did not find the natives use 
the numbers thus learnt very accurately—" We were washing 
at a blackamoor," he says.^ If, however, we examine the 
modern vocabularies of savage or low barbarian tribes, they will 
be found to afford interesting evidence how really effective the 
influence of higher on lower civilization has been in this matter. 
So far as the ruder system is complete and moderately con- 
venient, it may stand, but where it ceases or grows cumbrous, 
and sometimes at a lower limit than this, we can see the cleverer 
foreigner taking it into his own hands, supplementing or sup- 
planting the scanty numerals of the lower race by his own. 

* Grant in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 90. 

^ Dobrizhoffer, 'Gesch. der Ahiponer,' p. 205 ; Eng. Trans, vol. ii p 171 

VOL. I. ^ 


The higher race, though advanced enough to act thus on the 
lower, need not be itself at an extremely high level. Markham 
observes that the Jivaras of the Maranon, with native numerals 
up to 5, adopt for higher numbers those of the Quichua, the 
language of the Peruvian Incas.^ The cases of the indigenes of 
India are instructive. The Khonds reckon 1 and 2 in native 
words, and then take to borrowed Hindi numerals. The Oraon 
tribes, while belonging to a race of the Dravidian stock, and 
*liaving had a series of native numerals accordingly, appear to 
have given up their use beyond 4, or sometimes even 2, and 
adopted Hindi numerals in their place.^ The South American 
Conibos were observed to count 1 and 2 with their own words, 
and then to borrow Spanish numerals, much as a Brazilian 
dialect of the Tupi family is noticed in the last century as 
having lost the native 5, and settled down into using the 
old native numerals up to 3, and then continuing in Portu- 
guese.^ In Melanesia, the Annatom language can only count 
in its own numerals to 5, and then borrows English siJcs, seven, 
eet, nain, etc. In some Polynesian islands, though the native 
numerals are extensive enough, the confusion arising from 
reckoning by pairs and fours as well as units, has induced the 
natives to escape from perplexity by adopting huneri and 
tausani} And though the Esquimaux counting by hands, feet, 
and whole men, is capable of expressing high numbers, it be- 
comes practically clumsy even when it gets among the scores, 
and the Greenlander has done well to adopt untrite and tusinte 
from his Danish teachers. Similarity of numerals in two lan- 
guages is a point to which philologists attach great and deserved 
importance in the question whether they are to be considered 
as sprung from a common stock. But it is clear that so far as 
one race may have borrowed numerals from another, this evidence 
breaks down. The fact that this borrowing extends as low as 

1 Markham in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 166. 

2 Latham, ' Comp, Phil.' p. 186 ; Shaw in * As. Res.' vol. iv. p. 96 ; ' Journ. 
As. Soc. Bengal,' 1866, part ii. pp. 27, 204, 251. 

3 St. Cricq in ' Bulletin de la Soc. de Geog.' 1853, p. 286 ; Pott, * Ziihlme- 
thode,' p. 7. 

"^ Gabelentz, p. 89 ; Hale, 1. c. 


S, and may even go still farther for all we know, is a reason for 
■using the argument from connected numerals cautiously, as 
tending rather to prove intercourse than kinship. 

At the other end of the scale of civilization, the adoption of 
numerals from nation to nation still presents interesting j)hilo- 
logical points. Our own language gives curious instances, as 
second and Tiiillion. The manner in which English, in common 
with German, Dutch, Danish, and even Russian, has adopted 
Mediaeval Latin clozena (from duodecim) shows how convenient 
an arrangement it was found to buy and sell by the dozen, and 
how necessary it was to have a special v/ord for it. But the bor- 
rowing process has gone farther than this. If it were asked how 
many sets of numerals are in use among English-speaking people 
in England, the probable reply would be one set, the regular 
one, two, three, etc. There exist, however, two borrowed sets as 
well. One is the well-known dicing-set, ace, deuce, tray, cater, 
cinque, size ; thus size-ace is " 6 and 1," cinques or sinks, 
" double 5." These came to us from France, and correspond 
with the common French numerals, except ace, which is Latin 
CIS, a word of great philological interest, meaning '" one." The 
other borrowed set is to be found in the Slang Dictionary. It 
appears that the English street-folk have adopted as a means 
of secret communication a set of Italian numerals from the 
organ-grinders and image-sellers, or by other ways through 
which Italian or Lingua Franca is brought into the low neigh- 
bourhoods of London. In so doing, they have performed a 
philological operation not only curious, but instructive. By 
copying such expressions as Italian due soldi, tre soldi, as 
equivalent to "twopence," "threepence," the word scdtee became 
a recognized slang term for " penny ; " and pence are reckoned as 
follows : — 

Oney saJtee . . . . . . . Id. uno soldo. 

Dooe saltee ...... 

Tray saltee ...... 

Quarterer saltee ..... 

Chinker saltee ..... 

Say saltee ...... 

Say oney saltee or setter saltee . 

Say dooe saltee or otter saltee 

Say tray saltee or Qiohba saltee . . . . 9d. novo soldi. 

11 2 

2d. due soldi. 
3d. tre soldi. 
4d. quattro soldi. 
5d. cinque soldi. 
6d. sei soldi. 
7d. sette soldi. 
Sd. otto soldi. 


Sot/ quarterer saltee or dacha saUee . lOcl. clieci soldi. 
Say chinker saltee or dacha oney saltee . lid. undici soldi. 
Oney heong . . . . .Is. 

A heong say saltee , . . . , Is. 6d. 
Dooe heong say saltee or madza caroon . 2s. 6d. (half crown, iiiezza." 

corona.) ^ 

One of these series simply adopts Italian numerals decimally. 
But the other, when it has reached 6, having had enough of 
novelt}^, makes 7 by "six-one," and so forth. It is for no 
abstract reason that 6 is thus made the turning-point, but 
simply because the costermonger is adding pence up to the 
silver sixpence, and then adding pence again up to the shilling. 
Thus our duodecimal coinage has led to the practice of counting 
by sixes, and produced a philological curiosity, a real senary 

On evidence such as has been brought forward in this essay, 
the apparent relations of savage to civilized culture, as regards 
the Art of Counting, may now be briefly stated in conclusion. 
The principal methods to Avhich the development of the higher 
arithmetic are due, lie outside the problem. They are mostly 
ingenious plans of expressing numerical relations by written 
symbols. Among them are the Semitic scheme, and the Greek 
derived from it, of using the alphabet as a series of numerical 
symbols, a plan not quite discarded by ourselves, at least for 
ordinals, as in schedules A, B, &c. ; the use of initials of numeral 
words as figures for the numbers themselves, as in Greek IT and 
A for 5 and 10, Eoman C and M for 100 and 1,000, and the 
Indian numerals themselves, whose originals appear to be initials 
of " eka," " dvi," " tri," &c. ; the device of expressing fractions, 
shown in a rudimentary stage in Greek y', h' , for J, ^, y^ for f ; 
the introduction of the cipher or zero, and the arrangement of 
the Indian numerals in order, so that position distinguishes units, 
tens, hundreds, &c. ; and lastly, the modern notation of decimal 
fractions by carrying down belov/ the unit the proportional order 
which for ages had been in use above it. The ancient Egyptian 
and the still-used Roman and Chinese numeration are indeed 
founded on savage picture-writing,^ while the abacus and the 

1 J. C. Hotten, 'Slang Dictionary,' p. 218. 

2 t jjjjj,]^ History of Mankind,' p. 106. 


swan-pan, the one still a valuable scliool-instrument, and the 
other in full practical use, have their germ in the savage 
counting by groups of objects, as when South Sea Islanders 
count with cocoa-nut stalks, putting a little one aside every 
time they come to 10, and a large one when they come to 100, 
or when African negros reckon with pebbles or nuts, and every 
time they come to 5 put them aside in a little hea.p.^ 

We are here especially concerned with gesture-counting on the 
iingers, as an absolutely savage art still in use among children 
and peasants, and with the system of numeral words, known to all 
mankind, appearing scantily among the lowest tribes, and reach- 
ing within savage limits to developments which the highest civi- 
lization has only improved in detail. These two methods of 
computation by gesture and word tell the story of primitive 
arithmetic in a way that can be hardly perverted or misunder- 
stood. We see the savage who can only count to 2 or 3 or 4 
in words, but can go farther in dumb show. He has words for 
hands and fingers, feet and toes, and the idea strikes him 
that the words which describe the gesture will serve also to 
express its meaning, and they become his numerals accordingly. 
This did not happen only once, it happened among different 
races in distant regions, for such terms as " hand " for 5, " hand- 
one " for 6, " hands " for 10, " two on the foot " for 12, " hands 
and feet " or " man " for 20, " two men " for 40, etc., show such 
uniformity as is due to common principle, but also such variety 
as is due to independent v/orking-out. These are " pointer- 
facts " which have their place and explanation in a development- 
theory of culture, vvhile a degeneration-theory totally fails to 
take them in. They are distinct records of development, and 
of independent development, among savage tribes to whom 
some writers on civilization have rashly denied the very faculty 
of self-improvement. The original meaning of a great part of the 
stock of numerals of the lower races, especially of those from 1 
to 4, not suited to be named as hand-numerals, is obscure. 
They may have been named from comparison with objects, in a 
way which is shown actually to happen in such forms as " to- 
gether " for 2, " throv/ " for 3, " knot " for 4 ; but any concrete 

1 Ellis, 'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 91 ; Klemm, C. G. vol.iii. p. CS3. 


meaning we may guess them to have once had seems now by 
modification and mutilation to have passed out of knowledge. 

Remembering how ordinary words change and lose their 
traces of original meaning in the course of ages, and that in. 
numerals such breaking down of meaning is actually desirable, 
to make them fit for pure arithmetical symbols, we cannot 
wonder that so large a proportion of existing numerals should 
have no discernible etymology. This is especially true of 
the 1, 2, 8, 4, among low and high races alike, the earliest to 
be made, and therefore the earliest to lose their primary signifi- 
cance. Beyond these low numbers, the languages of the higher 
and lower races show a remarkable difference. The hand- 
and-foot numerals, so prevalent and unmistakeable in savage 
tongues like Esquimaux and Zulu, are scarcely if at all trace- 
able in the great languages of civilization, such as Sanskrit and 
Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. This state of things is quite con- 
formable to the development-theory of language. We may 
argue that it was in comparatively recent times that savages 
arrived at the invention of hand-numerals, and that therefore 
the etymology of such numerals remains obvious. But it by no- 
means follows from the non-appearance of such primitive forms 
in cultured Asia and Europe, that they did not exist there in 
remote ages ; they may since have been rolled and battered 
like pebbles b}^ the stream of time, till their original shapes can 
no longer be made out. Lastly, among savage and civilized races 
alike, the general framework of numeration stands throughout 
the world as an abiding monument of primaeval culture. This 
framework, the all but universal scheme of reckoning by fives, 
tens, and twenties, shows that the childish and savage practice 
of counting on fingers and toes lies at the foundation of our 
arithmetical science. Ten seems the most convenient arithmetical 
basis offered by systems founded on hand-counting, but twelve 
would have been better, and duodecimal arithmetic is in fact a 
protest against the less convenient decimal arithmetic in 
ordinary use. The case is the not uncommon one of high 
civilization bearing evident traces of the rudeness of its origin 
in ancient barbaric life. 



Mythic fancy based, like other thought, on Experience — Mythology affords evi- 
dence for studying laws of Imagination — Change in public opinion as to cre- 
dibility of Myths — Myths rationalized into allegory and history — Ethnologi- 
cal import and treatment of Myth — Myth to be studied in actual existence 
and growth among modern savages and barbarians — Original sources of Myth 
— Early doctrine of general Animation of ISTature — Personification of Sun, 
Moon, and Stars ; "Water-spout, Sand-pillar, Rainbow, Water-fall, Pesti- 
lence — Analogy worked into Myth and Metaphor — Myths of Rain, Thunder, 
&c. — Effect of Language in formation of Myth — Material Personification 
primary. Verbal Personification secondary — Grammatical Gender, male and 
female, animate and inanimate, in relation to Myth — Proper names of Objects 
in relation to Myth — Mental state proper to promote mythic imagination 
— Doctrine of Werewolves— Phantasy and Fancy. 

Among those opinions which are produced by a little know- 
ledge, to be dispelled by a little more, is the belief in an almost 
boundless creative power of the human imagination. The su- 
perficial student, mazed in a crowd of seemingly wild and law- 
less fancies, which he thinks to have no reason in nature nor 
pattern in this material world, at first concludes them to be new 
births from the imagination of the poet, the tale-teller, and the 
seer. But little by little, in what seemed the most spontaneous 
fiction, a more comprehensive study of the sources of poetry and 
romance begins to disclose a cause for each fancy, an education 
that has led up to each train of thought, a store of inherited 
materials from out of which each province of the poet's land has 
been shaped, and built over, and peopled. Backward from our 
own times, the course of mental history may be traced through 
the changes wrought by modern schools of thought and fancy, 
upon an intellectual inheritance handed down to them from 
earlier generations. And through remoter periods, as we recede 


more nearly toward primitive conditions of our race, the threads 
which connect new thought with old do not always vanish from 
our sight. It is in large measure possible to follow them as 
clues leading back to that actual experience of nature and life, 
which is the ultimate source of human fancy. What Matthew 
Arnold has written of Man's thoughts as he floats along the 
Eiver of Time, is most true of his mythic imagination :— "^ 

" As is the world on the banks 
So is the mind of the man. 

Only the tract where he sails 

He wots of: only the thoughts, 

Eaised by the objects he passes, are his." 

Impressions thus received the mind will modify^ and work 
upon, transmitting the products to other minds in shapes that 
often seem new, strange, and arbitrary, but which yet result 
from processes familiar to our experience, and to be found at 
work in our own individual consciousness. The office of our 
thought is to develope, to combine, and to derive, rather than to 
create ; and the consistent laws it works by are to be discerned 
even in the unsubstantial structures of the imagination. Here, 
as elsewhere in the universe, there is to be recognized a sequence 
.^: from cause to effect, a sequence intelligible, definite, and where 
knowledge reaches the needful exactness, even calculable. 

There is perhaps no better subject-matter through which to 
study the processes of the imagination, than the well-marked 
incidents of mythical story, ranging as they do through every 
known period of civilization, and through all the physically 
varied tribes of mankind. Here Maui, the New Zealand Sun- 
god, fishing up the island with his enchanted hook from the 
bottom of the sea, will take his place in company with the 
Indian Vishnu, diving to the depths of the ocean in his avatar 
of the Boar, to bring up the submerged earth on his monstrous 
tusks ; and here Baiame the creator, whose voice the rude Aus- 
tralians hear in the rolling thunder, will sit throned by the side 
of Olympian Zeus himself Starting with the bold rough 
nature-myths into which the savage moulds the lessons he his 
learnt from his childlike contemplation of the universe, the 


ethnographer can follow these rude fictions up into times when 
they were shaped and incorporated into complex mythologic 
systems, gracefully artistic in Greece, stiff and monstrous in 
Mexico, swelled into bombastic exaggeration in Buddhist Asia. 
He can watch how the mythology of classic Europe, once so true 
to nature and so quick with her ceaseless life, fell among the 
commentators to be plastered with allegory or euhemerised into 
dull sham history. At last, in the midst of modern civilization, 
he finds the classic volumes studied ratherfor their manner than 
for their matter, or mainly valued for their antiquarian evidence 
of the thoughts of former times ; while relics of structures 
reared with such skill and strength by the myth-makers of the j 
past must now be sought in scraps of nursery folk-lore, in 
vulgar superstitions and old dying legends, in thoughts and 
allusions carried on from ancient days by the perennial stream 
of poetry and romance, in fragments of old opinion which still 
hold an inherited rank gained in past ages of intellectual 
history. But this turning of mythology to account as a means 
of tracing the history and laws of mind, is a branch of science 
scarcely discovered till the present century. Before entering 
here on some researches belonging to it, there will be advantage 
in glancing at the views of older mythologists, to show through 
what changes their study has at length reached a condition in 
which it has a scientific value. 

It is a momentous phase of the education of mankind, when 
the regularity of nature has so imprinted itself upon men's 
minds, that they begin to wonder how it is that the ancient 
legends that they were brought up to hear with such reverent 
delight, should describe a world so strangely different from their 
own. Why, they ask, are the gods and giants and monsters 
no longer seen to lead their prodigious lives on earth — is it 
perchance that the course of things is changed since the old 
days ? Thus it seemed to Pausanias the historian, that the 
wide-grown wickedness of the world had brought it to pass 
that times were no longer as of old, when Lykaon was turned 
into a wolf, and Niobe into a stone, w^hen men still sat as guests 
at table with the gods, or were raised like Herakles to become 
gods themselves. Up to modern times, the hypothesis of a 


changed world has more or less availed to remove the difficulty 
of belief in ancient wonder-tales. Yet though always holding 
firmly a partial ground, its application was soon limited for these 
obvious reasons, that it justified falsehood and truth alike with 
even-handed favour, and utterly broke down that barrier of pro- 
bability which in some measure has always separated fact from 
fancy. The Greek mind found other outlets to the problem. 
In the words of Mr. Grote, the ancient legends were cast back 
into an undefined past, to take rank among the hallowed tradi- 
tions of divine or heroic antiquity, gratifying to extol by rhe- 
toric, but repulsive to scrutinize in argument. Or they were 
transformed into shapes more familiar to experience, as when 
Plutarch, telling the tale of Theseus, begs for indulgent hearers 
to accept mildly the archaic story, and assures them that he 
has set himself to purify it by reason, that it may receive the 
aspect of history.^ This process of giving fable the aspect of 
history, this profitless art of transforming untrue impossibilities 
into untrue possibilities, has been carried on by the ancients, 
and by the moderns after them, especially according to the two 
fpllowing methods. 

Men have for ages been more or less conscious of that great 
mental district lying between belief and disbelief, where room is 
i.found for all mythic interpretation, good or bad. It being ad- 
mitted that some legend is not the real narrative which it pur- 
ports to be, they do not thereupon wipe it out from book and 
memory as simply signifying nothing, but they ask what 
original sense may be in it, out of what older story it may be a 
second growth, or what actual event or current notion may have 
suggested its development into the state in which they find it ? 
Such questions, however, prove almost as easy to answer plau- 
sibly as to set ; and then, in the endeavour to obtain security 
that these off-hand answers are the true ones, it becomes 
evident that the problem admits of an indefinite number of 
apparent solutions, not only different but incompatible. This 
radical uncertainty in the speculative interpretation of myths is 
forcibly stated by Lord Bacon, in the preface to his ' Wisdom of 

^ Grote, 'History of Greece,' vol. i. chaps, ix. xi. ; Paiisanias viii. 2; Plu- 
tarch. Theseus 1. 


the Ancients.' '' Neither am I ignorant," he says, " how fickle 
and inconstant a thing fiction is, as being subject to be drawn 
and wrested any way, and how great the commodity of wit and 
discourse is, that is able to apply things well, yet so as never 
meant by the first authors." The need of such a caution may 
be judged of from the very treatise to which Bacon prefaced it, 
for there he is to be seen plunging headlong into the very pit- 
fall of which he had so discreetly warned his disciples. He un- 
dertakes, after the manner of not a few philosophers before and 
after him, to interpret the classic myths of Greece as moral 
allegories. Thus the story of Memnon depicts the destinies of 
rash young men of promise ; while Perseus symbolizes war, 
and when of the three Gorgons he attacks only the mortal one, 
this means that only practicable wars are to be attempted. It 
would not be easy to bring out into a stronger light the differ- 
ence between a fanciful application of a myth, and its analysis 
into its real elements. For here, where the interpreter be- 
lieved himself to be reversing the process of myth-making, he 
was in fact only carrying it a stage farther in the old direction, 
and out of the suggestion of one train of thought evolving 
another connected with it by some more or less remote analogy. 
Any of LIS may practise this simple art, each according to his 
own fancy. If, for instance, political economy happens for the 
moment to lie uppermost in our mind, we may with clue gravity ' 
expound the story of Perseus as an allegory of trade : Perseus 
himself is Labour, and he finds Andromeda, who is Profit, \ 
chained and ready to be devoured by the monster Capital ; he 
rescues her, and carries her off in triumph. To know anything / 
of poetry or of mysticism is to know this reproductive growth of 
fancy as an admitted and admired intellectual process. But / 
when it comes to sober investigation of the processes of mytho-/ 
logy, the attempt to penetrate to the foundation of an old fancy 
will scarcely be helped by burying it yet deeper underneath a 
new one. 

Nevertheless, allegory has had a share in the development of 
myths which no interpreter must overlook. The fault of the 
rationalizer lay in taking allegory beyond its proper action, i 
and applying it as a universal solvent to reduce dark stories ta 


Jransparenl^ensa, — The same is true of the other great ration- 
alizing process, founded also, to some extent, on fact. Nothing is 
more certain than that real personages often have mythic incidents 
tacked on to their history, and that they even figure in tales of 
which the very substance is mythic. No one disbelieves in the 
existence of Solomon because of his legendary adventure in the 
Valley of Apes, nor of Attila because he figures in the Nibel- 
ungen Lied. Sir Francis Drake is made not less but more real 
to us by the cottage tales which tell how he still leads the Wild 
Hunt over Dartmoor, and still rises to his revels when they beat 
at Buckland Abbey the drum that he carried round the world. 
The mixture of fact and fable in traditions of great men shows 
that legends containing monstrous fancy may yet have a basis 
in historic fact. But, on the strength of this, the mythologists 
arranged systematic methods of reducing legend to history, and 
thereby contrived at once to stultify the mythology they pro- 
fessed to explain, and to ruin the history they professed to 
develope. So far as the plan consisted in mere suppression of 
the marvellous, a notion of its trustworthiness may be obtained, 
as Mr. G. W. Cox well puts it, in rationalizing Jack the Giant- 
Killer by leaving out the giants. So far as it treated legendary 
wonders as being matter-of-fact disguised in metaphor, the 
mere naked statement of the results of the method is to our 
minds its most cruel criticism. Thus already in classic times 
men were declaring that Atlas was a great astronomer who 
taught the use of the sphere, and was therefore represented 
with the world resting on his shoulders. To such a pass had 
come the decay of myth into commonplace, that the great 
Heaven-god of the Aryan race, the living personal Heaven him- 
self, Zeus the Almighty, was held to have been a king of Krete, 
and the Kretans could show to wondering strangers his se- 
pulchre, with the very name of the great departed inscribed 
upon it. The modern " euhemerists " (so called from Euhemeros 
of Messenia, a great professor of the art in the time of Alex- 
ander) in part adopted the old interpretations, and sometimes 
fairly left their Greek and Roman teachers behind in the race 
after prosaic possibility. They inform us that Jove smiting the 
giants with his thunderbolts was a king repressing a sedition ; 


Danae's golden shower was the money with which her guards 
were bribed; Prometheus made clay images, whence it was 
hyperbolically said that he created man and woman out of 
clay ; and when Daedalus was related to have made figures 
which walked, this meant that he improved the shapeless old 
statues, and separated their legs. Old men still remember as 
the guides of educated opinion in their youth the learned books 
in which these fancies are solemnly put forth ; some of our 
school manuals still go on quoting them with respect, and a fev/ 
straggling writers carry on a remnant of the once famous 
system of which, the Abbe Banier was so distinguished an ex- 
ponent.^ But it has of late fallen on evil days, and mythologists 
in authority have treated it in so high-handed a fashion as to 
bring it into general contempt. So far has the feeling against 
the abuse of such argument gone, that it is now really desirable 
to warn students that it has a reasonable as well as an unrea- 
sonable side, and to remind .them that some wild legends 
undoubtedly do, and therefore that many others may, contain a 
kernel of historic truth. 

Learned and ingenious as the old systems of rationalizing^ 
myth have been, there is no doubt that they-^axa in great 
rneasui;e_destiiied,_tD_ _be thrown aside. It is not that their 
interpretations are proved impossible, but that mere possibility 
in mythological speculation is now seen to be such a worthless 
commodity, that every investigator devoutly wishes there were 
not such plenty of it. In assigning origins to myths, as in 
every other scientific enquiry, the fact is, that increased infor- 
mation, and the use of more stringent canons of evidence, have 
raised far above the old level the standard of probability 
required to produce conviction. There are many who describe 
our own time as an unbelieving time, but it is by no means 
sure that posterity will accept the verdict. No doubt it is a 
scejDtical and a critical time, but then sc^ptkikni and criticism 
are thejjej^eonditions for the attainment of reasonable belief. 
Thus, where the positive credence of ancient history has been 
affected, it is not that the power of receiving evidence has 

^ See Banier, * La Mythologie et les Fables expliquees par rHistoiie,' Paris, 
173S ; Lempriere, ' Classical Dictionary,' etc. 


diminished, but that the consciousness of ignorance has grown. 
We are being trained to the facts of physica.! science, which we 
can test and test again, and we feel it a fall from this high level 
of proof when we turn our minds to the old records which elude 
such testing, and are even admitted on all hands to contain 
statements not to be relied on. Historical criticism becomes 
hard and exacting, even where the chronicle records events not 
improbable in themselves ; and the moment that the story falls 
out of our scheme of the world's habitual course, the ever 
repeated question comes out to meet it — Which is the more 
likely, that so unusual an event should have really happened, 
or that the record should be misunderstood or false ? Thus we 
gladly seek for sources of history in antiquarian relics, in unde- 
signed and collateral proofs, in documents not written to be 
chronicles. But can any reader of geology say we are too 
incredulous to believe wonders, if the evidence carry any fair 
warrant of their truth? Was there ever a time when lost 
history was being reconstructed, and existing history rectified, 
more zealously than they are now by a whole army of travellers, 
excavators, searchers of old charters, and explorers of forgotten 
dialects ? The very myths that were discarded as lying fables, 
prove to be sources of history in ways that their makers and 
transmitters little dreamed of. Their meaning has been mis- 
understood, but they have a meaning. Every tale that was 
ever told has a meaning for the times it belongs to ; even a lie, 
as the Spanish proverb says, is a lady of birth (" la mentira es 
hija de algo"). Thus, as evidence of the development of 
thought, as records of long past belief and usage, even in some 
measure as materials for the history of the nations owning them, 
the old myths have fairly taken their place among historic 
facts ; and with such the modern historian, so able and Vv^illing 
to pull down, is also able and willing to rebuild. 

Of all things, what mythologic work needs is breadth of 
knowledge and of handling. Interpretations made to suit a 
narrow view reveal their weakness when exposed to a wide one. 
See Herodotus rationalizing the story of the infant Cyrus, 
exposed and suckled by a bitch ; he simply relates that the 
child was brought up by a herdsman's wife named Spako (in 


•Greek Kyno), whence arose the fable that a real bitch rescued 
and fed him. So far so good — for a single case. But does the 
story of Romulus and Remus likewise record a real event, 
mystified in the self- same manner by a pun on a nurse's name, 
wdiicli happened to be a she-beast's ? Did the Roman twins 
also really happen to be exposed, and brought up by a foster- 
mother who happened to be called Lupa 1 Positively, the 
* Lempriere's Dictionary ' of our youth (I quote the 16th edition 
of 1831) gravely gives this as the origin of the famous legend. 
Yet, if we look properly into the matter, we find that these two 
stories are but specimens of a wide-spread mythic group, itself 
only a section of that far larger body of traditions in which 
exposed infants are saved to become national heroes. For 
other examples, Slavonic folk-lore tells of the she-wolf and the 
she-bear that suckled those superhuman twins, Waligora the 
mountain-roller and Wyrwidab the oak-uprooter ; Germany 
has its legend of Dieterich, called Wolfdieterich from his foster- 
mother the she-wolf ; in India, the episode recurs in the tales 
of Satavahana and the lioness, and Sing-Baba and the tigress ; 
legend tells of Burta-Chino, the boy who was cast into a lake, 
and preserved by a she-wolf to become founder of the Turkish 
kingdom ; and even the savage Yuracares of Brazil tell of their 
divine hero Tiri, who was suckled by a jaguar.^ 

Scientific myth-interpretation, on the contrary, is actually 
strengthened by such comparison of similar cases. Where the 
effect of new knowledge has been to construct rather than to 
destroy, it is found that there are groups of myth-interpretations 
for which wider and deeper evidence makes a Avider and deeper 
foundation. The principles which underlie a solid system of 
interpretation are really few and simple. The treatment of 
similar myths from different regions, by arranging them in large j 
compared groups, makes it possible to trac£^jiaxthQlogy the/ 
operation of imaginative processes recurring with the evident 

» Haniisch, * Slav. Myth.' p. 323 ; Grimm, D. M. p. 363 ; Latham, * Dcscr. 
Eth.' vol. ii. p. 448 ; L J. Schmidt, 'Forschungen,' p. 13 ; J. G. Miiller, *Amer. 
Urrelig.' p. 2(>8. See also Plutarch. Parallela xxxvi. ; Campbell, 'Highland 
Talcs,' vol. i. p. 278 ; Max Muller, 'Chips,' vol. ii. p. 169 ; Tylor, 'Wild Men 
and Beast- children,' in Anthropological Review, May 1863. 


regulari ty of nie nJaLlaw; and thus stories of which a single 
Instance would have been a mere isolated cariosity, take their 
place among well-marked and consistent structures of the human 
mind. Evidence like this will again and again drive us to 
admit that even as "truth is stranger than fiction," so myth 
vmay be more uniform than history. 

There lies within our reach, moreover, the evidence of races 
both ancient and modern, who so faithfully represent the state 
of thought to which myth-development belongs, as still to keep 
up both the consciousness of meaning in their old myths, and 
the unstrained unaffected habit of creating new ones. Ravages 
liay^ be^en„J'^s^^ and- still are, living in the myth- 
making stage of the human mind. It was through sheer igno- 
rance and neglect of this direct knowledge how and by v/hat 
manner of men myths are really made, that their simple philo- 
sophy has come to be buried under masses of commentators' 
rubbish. Though never wholly lost, the secret of mythic inter- 
pretation was all but forgotten. Its recovery has been mainly 
due to modern students wdio have with vast labour and skill 
searched the ancient language, poetry, and folk-lore of our own 
race, from the cottage tales collected by the brothers Grimm to 
the Rig-Yeda edited by Max Miiiler. Aryan language and 
literature now opens out with wonderful range and clearness a- 
view of the early stages of mythology, displaying those primi- 
tive germs of the ijoetry of nature, which later ages swelled and 
distorted till childlike fancy sank into superstitious mystery. It 
is not proposed here to enquire specially into this Aryan mytho- 
logy, of which so many eminent students have treated, but to 
compare some of the most important developments of mytho- 
logy among the various races of mankind, especially in order to 
determine the general relation of the myths of savage tribes to 
the myths of civilized nations. The argument does not aim 
at a general discussion of the mythology of the world, num- 
bers of important topics being left untouched which would have 
to be considered in a general treatise. The topics chosen are 
mostly such as are fitted, by the strictness of evidence and argu- 
ment applying to them, to make a sound basis for the treatment 
of myth as bearing on the general ethnological problem of the 



development of civilization. The general thesis maintained is 
that Myth arose in the savage condition prevalent in remote 
ages among the whole human race, that it remains compara- 
tively unchanged among the modern rude tribes who have 
departed least from these primitive conditions, while higher 
and later grades of civilization, partly by retaining its actual 
principles, and partly by carrying on its inherited results in the 
form of ancestral tradition, continued it not merely in tolera- 
tion but in honour. 

To the human intellect in its early childlike state may be 
assigned the origin and first development of myth. It is true 
that learned critics, taking up the study of mythology at the 
wrong end, have almost habitually failed to appreciate its child- 
like ideas, conventionalized in poetry or disguised as chronicle. 
Y'eftKe'more we compare the mythic fancies of different nations, 
in order to discern the common thoughts which underlie their 
resemblances, the more ready we shall be to admit that in our 
childhood we dwelt at the very gates of the realm of myth. In 
mythology, ~tEe~child isTTii *an3^eeper^s"ense^'tlian we are apt to 
use the phrase in, father of the man. Thus, when in surveying 
the quaint fancies and wild legends of the lower tribes, we find 
the mythology of the world at once in its most distinct and most 
rv^dimentary form, we may here again claim the savage as a 
r^apresentative of the childhood of the human race. Here Eth- 
liology and Comparative Mythology go hand in hand, and the 
Jevelopment of Myth forms a consistent part of the develop- 
ment of Culture. If savage races, as the nearest modern repre- 
se^ntatives of primsaval culture, show in the most distinct and 
unchanged state the rudimentary mythic conceptions thence to 
b(3 traced onward in the course of civilization, then it is reason- 
able for students to begin, so far as may be, at the beginning. 
Savage mythology may be taken as a basis, and then the myths 
of more civilized races may be displayed as compositions sprung 
from like origin, though more advanced in art. This mode of 
treatment proves satisfactory through almost all the branches of 
th e enquiry, and eminently so in investigating those most beau- 
tiful of poe tic fic tions, to which may be given the title of 
N{ ire-MythsT ' 


First and foremost among tlie causes which transfigure into 
myth the facts of daily experience, is the belief in the animation 
of all nature, rising at its highest pitch to personification. This, 
no occasional or hypothetical action of the mind, is inextricably' 
bound in with that primitive mental state where man recognizes 
in every detail of his world the operation of personal life and 
will. This doctrine of Animism will be considered elsewhere as 
affecting philosophy and religion, but here we have only to do 
with its bearing on mythology. To the lower tribes of man, sun 
and stars, trees and rivers, winds and clouds, become personal 
animate creatures, leading lives conformed to human or animal 
analogies, and performing their special functions in the universe 
with the aid of limbs like beasts, or of artificial instruments like 
men ; or what men's eyes behold is but the instrument to be 
used or the material to be shaped, while behind it there stands 
some prodigious but yet half-human creature, who gra^sps it with 
his hands or blows it with his breath. The basis on which such 
ideas as these are built is not to be narrov/ed down to poetic 
fancy and transformed metaphor. They rest upon a broad phi- 
losophy of nature, early and crude indeed, but thoughtful, 
consistent, and quite really and seriously meant. 

Let us put this doctrine of universal vitality to a test of direct 
evidence, lest readers new to the subject should suppose it '^a 
modern philosophical fiction, or think that if the lower racei^ 
really express such a notion, they may do so only as a poeticaJl 
way of talking. Even in civilized countries, it makes its ap- 
pearance as the child's early theory of the outer world, nor can 
we fail to see how this comes to pass. The first beings that 
children learn to understand something of are human beings, 
and especially their own selves ; and the first explanation of all 
events will be the human explanation, as though chairs and 
sticks and wooden horses were actuated by the same sort of 
personal will as nurses and children and kittens. Thus infants 
take their first step in mythology by contriving, like Cosette 
with her doll, " se figurer que quelque chose est quelqu'un ;" and 
the way in which this childlike theory has to be unlearnt in the 
course of education shows how primitive it is. Even among 
full-grown civilized Europeans, as Mr. Grote appositely rema :s. 


^' The force of momentary joassion will often suffice to supersede 
the acquired habit, and even an intelligent man may be impel- 
led in a moment of agonizing pain to kick or beat the lifeless 
object from which he has suffered/' In such matters the savage 
mind well rejoresents the childish stage. The wild native of 
Brazil would bite the stone he stumbled over, or the arrow that 
had wounded him. Such a mental condition may be traced 
along the course of history, not merely in imiDulsive habit, but 
in formally enacted law. The rude Kukis of Southern Asia 
were very scrupulous in carrying out their simple law of ven- 
geance, life for life ; if a tiger killed a Kuki, his family were in 
disgrace till they had retaliated by killing and eating this tiger, 
or another ; but further, if a man was killed by a fall from a 
txee, his relatives would take their revenge by cutting the tree 
down, and scattering it in chips.^ A modern king of Cochin- 
China, when one of his ships sailed badly, used to put it in the 
pillory as he would any other criminal." In classical times, the 
stories of Xerxes flogging the Hellespont and Cyrus draining 
the Gyndes occur as cases in point, bat one of the regular 
Athenian legal proceedings is a yet more striking relic. A court 
of justice was held at the Prytaneum, to try any inanimate object, 
such as an axe or a piece of wood or stone, which had caused the 
death of any one without proved human agency, and this wood 
or stone, if condemned, was in solemn form cast beyond the 
border.^ The spirit of this remarkable procedure reappears in 
the old English law (repealed in the present reign), whereby not 
only a beast that kills a man, but a cart-wheel that runs over 
him, or a tree that falls on him and kills him, is deodand, or 
given to God, i. e., forfeited and sold for the poor : as Bracton 
says, " Omnia quas movent ad mortem sunt Deodanda." Dr. 
Keid comments on this law, declaring that its intention v/as not 
to punish the ox or the cart as criminal, but '' to inspire the 
people with a sacred regard to the life of man." But his argu- 
ment rather serves to show the worthlessness of off-hand S23ecu- 

^ Macrae in 'As. Res.' vol. vii. p. 189. 

2 Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 51. 

3 Grote, vol. iii. p. 104 ; vol. v. p. 22 ; llerodot. i. ISO ; vii. 34 ; Forpliyr. 
de Abstinentia ii. 30 ; Pausan. i. 28 ; Pollux, 'Onomasticou.' 

s 2 


lations on the origin of law, like his own in this matter, iir^aicled 
by the indispensable evidence of history and ethnography.^ An 
example from modern folk-lore shows this primitive conception 
still at its utmost stretch. The pathetic custom of " telling the 
bees " when the master or mistress of a house dies, is not un- 
knov/n in our own country. But in Germany the idea is more 
fully worked out ; and not only is the sad message given to 
every bee-hive in the garden and every beast in the stall, but 
every sack of corn must be touched and everything in the house 
shaken, that they may know the master is gone.^ 

Animism takes in several doctrines which so forciblv conduce 
to personification, that savages and barbarians, apparently with- 
out an effort, can give consistent individual life to phenomena 
that our utmost stretch of fancy only avails to personify in con- 
• scious metaphor. An idea of pervading life and will in nature 
far outside modern limits, a belief in personal souls animating 
even what we call inanimate bodies, a theory of transmigration 
of souls as well in life as after death, a sense of crowds of spiri- 
tual beings, sometimes flitting through the air, but sometimes 
also inhabiting trees and rocks and waterfalls, and so lending 
their own personality to such material objects — all these thoughts 
work in mythology with such manifold coincidence, as to make 
it hard indeed to unravel their separate action. 

Such animistic origin of nature-myths shows out very clearly 
in the great cosmic group of Sun, Moon, and Stars. In early 
philosophy throughout the world, the Sun and Moon are alive 
and as it were human in their nature. Usually contrasted as 
male and female, they nevertheless differ in the sex assigned 
to each, as well as in their relations to one another. Among 
the Mbocobis of South America, the Moon is a man and the 
Sun his wife, and the story is told how she once fell down 
and an Indian put her up again, but she fell a second 
time and set the forest blazing in a deluge of fire.^ To 
display the opposite of this idea, and at the same time to 

^ Eeid, ' Essays, ' vol. iii. p. 113. 

2 Wuttke, 'Yolksaberglaube/p. 210. 

3 D'Orbigny, * L'Homme Americain,' vol. ii. p. 102. See also De la Borcle, 
' Caraibes,' p. 525. 


illustrate the vivid fancy with which savages can personify the 
heavenly bodies, we may read the following discussion concern- 
ing eclipses, between certain Algonquin Indians and one of the 
early Jesuit missionaries to Canada in the 17th century, 
Father Le Jeune : — " Je leur ay demande d'oa venoit I'Eclipse 
de Lune et de Soleil ; ils m'ont respondu que la Lune s'eclip- 
soit ou paroissoit noire, a cause qu'elle tenoit son fils entre ses 
bras, qui empeschoit que Ton ne vist sa clarte. Si la Lune a un 
fils, elle est mariee, ou I'a ete, leur dis-je. Oliy dea, me dirent- 
ils, le Soleil est son mary, qui marche tout le jour, et elle toute 
la nuict; et s'il s' eclipse, ou s'il s'obscurcit, c'est qu'il prend 
aussi par fois le fils qu'il a eu de la Lune entre ses bras. Oiiy, 
mais ny la Lune ny le Soleil n'ont 23oint de bras, leur clisois-je. 
Tu n'as point d'esprit : ils tiennent tousiours leurs arcs bandes 
deuant eux, voila pourquoy leurs bras ne paroissent point. Et 
sur qui veulent-ils tirer ? He qu'en scauons nous ? "^ A mytho- 
logically important legend of the same race, the Ottawa story of 
Iosco, describes Sun and Moon as brother and sister. Two 
Indians, it is said, sprang through a chasm in the sky, and found 
themselves in a pleasant moonlit la.nd ; there they saw the 
Moon approaching as from behind a hill, they knew her at the 
first sight, she was an aged woman with white face and pleasing 
air ; speaking kindly to them, she led them to her brother the 
Sun, and he carried them with him in his course and sent them 
home with promises of happy life.^ As the Egyptian Osiris and 
Isis were at once Sun and Moon, brother and sister, and husband 
and wife, so it was with the Peruvian Sun and Moon, and thus 
the sister-marriage of the Incas had in their religion at once a 
meaning and a justification.^ The myths of other countries, 
where such relations of sex may not appear, carry on the same 
lifelike personification in telling the ever-reiterated, never tedious 
tale of day and night. Thus to the Mexicans it was an ancient 

^ Le Jeune in ' Relations des Jesuites dans la Nouvelle France,' 1634, p. 26. 
See Charlevoix, ' Nouvelle France,' vol. ii. p. 170. 

- Schoolcraft, ' Algic Eesearches,' vol. ii. p. 54 ; compare * Tanners Narrative,* 
p. 317 ; see also 'Prose Edda,' i. 11; 'Early Hist, of M.' p. 327. 

3 Prcscott, 'Pern,' vol. i. p. S6 ; Garcilaso de la Yega, ' Comm. Real.' i. 
c. 4. 


hero who, when the old sun was burnt out 8.nd had left the 
world in darkness, sprang into a huge fire, descended into the 
shades below, and arose deified and glorious in the east as Tona- 
tiuh the Sun. After him there leapt in another hero, but now 
the fire had grown dim, and he arose only in milder radiance as 
Metztli the Moon.^ 

If it be objected that all this may be mere expressive form 
of speech, like a modern poet's fanciful metaphor, there is 
evidence which no such objection can stand against. When the 
Aleutians thought that if any one gave offence to the moon, he 
would fling clown stones on the offender and kill him/ or Avhen 
the moon came down to an Indian squa.w, appearing in the 
form of a beautiful woman with a child in her arms, and 
demanding an offering of tobacco and fur-robes,^ what concep- 
tions of personal life could be more distinct than these ? When 
the Apache Indian pointed to the sky and asked the white man, 
" Do you not believe that God, this Sun (que Dios, este Sol) sees 
Vv'hat we do and punishes us when it is evil ? " it is impossible 
to say that this savage was talking in rhetorical simile.^ There 
was something in the Homeric contemplation of the living 
personal Helios, that v/as more and deeper than metaphor. 
Even in far later ages, we may read of the outcry that arose 
in Greece against the astronomers, those blasphemous mate- 
rialists who denied, not the divinity only, but the very person- 
ality of the sun, and declared him a huge hot ball. Later 
again, how vividly Tacitus brings to view the old personification 
dying into simile among the Romans, in contrast with its still 
endurinc^ relisf"ious vis^our anions: the German nations, in the 
record of Boiocalcus pleading before the Roman legate that his 
tribe should not be driven from their lands. Looking toward 
the sun, and calling on the other heavenly bodies as though, 
says the historian, they had been there present, the German 
chief demanded of them if it were their will to look down 

1 Torquemada, * Monarquia Indiana,' vi. 42 ; Clavigcro, vol. ii. p. 9 ; Saliagiin in 
Kings"borougli, 'Antiquities of Mexico.' 
- Bastian, 'Menscli,' vol. ii. p. 59. 

^ Le Jeune, in * Eelations des Jesuites dans la ITouvclle France,' 1839, p. 88. 
* Froebel, ' Central America,' p, 490. 


upon a vacant soil? (Solem deinde respiciens, et cfEtera sidera 
vocans, quasi coram interrogabat, vellentne contneri inane 
solum ? ) 1 

So it is. with the stars. Savage mythology contains many a 
story of them, agreeing through all other difference in attribut- 
ing to them animate life. They are not merely talked of in 
fancied personality, but jDersonal action is attributed to them, 
or they are even declared once to have lived on earth. The 
natives of Australia not only say the stars in Orion's belt and 
scabbard are young men dancing a corroboree ; they declare that 
Jupiter, whom they call " Foot of Day " (Ginabong-Bearp), was 
a chief among the Old Spirits, that ancient race who were 
translated to heaven before man came on earth," The Esqui- 
maux did not stop short at calling the stars of Orion's belt the 
Lost Ones, and telUng a tale of their being seal-hunters who ] 
missed their way home ; but they distinctly held that the stars 
were in old times men and animals, before they went iip into' 
the sky.^ So the North American Indians had more than 
superficial meaning in calling the Pleiades the Dancers, and the 
morning-star the Day-bringer ; for among them stories are told 
like that of the lowas, of the star that an Indian had long 
gazed upon in childhood, and who came down and talked with 
him when he w^as once out hunting, weary and luckless, and led 
him to a place where there was much game.^ The Kasia of 
Bengal declare that the stars were once men : they climbed to 
the top of a tree (of course the great heaven-tree of the 
mythology of so many lands), but others below cut the trunk 
and left them up there in the branches.^ With such savage 
conceptions as guides, the original meaning in the familiar 
classic personification of stars can scarcely be doubted. The 
explicit doctrine of the animation of stars is to be traced 
through past centuries, and down to our own. Origen declares 

^ Tac. Ann. xiii. 55. 

- Stanbridge, in ' Tr. Etli. Soc' vol. i. p. 301. 

3 Cranz, 'Gronland,' p, 295 ; Hayes, 'Arctic Boat Journey,' p. 254. 
^ Sclioolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part. iii. p. 276 ; see also De la Borde, * Caraibos,, 
p. 525. 

5 Latham, ' Descr. Etli.' vol. i. p. 119. 


that the stars are animate and rational, moved with such order 
and reason as it would be absurd to sa^y irrational creatures 
could fulfil. Pamphilius, in his apology for this Father, lays it 
down that whereas some have held the luminaries of heaven to 
be animate and rational creatures, while others have held them 
mere spiritless and senseless bodies, no one may call another 
a heretic for holding either view, for there is no open tradition 
on the subject, and even ecclesiastics have thought diversely of 
it.^ It is enough to mention here the well-known mediaeval 
doctrine of star-souls and star-angels, so intimately mixed up 
with the delusions of astrology. In our own time the theory of 
the animating souls of stars finds still here and there an 
advocate, and De Maistre, prince and leader of reactionar}^ 
philosophers, holds up against modern astronomers the doctrine 
of personal will in astronomic motion, and the theory of 
animated planets." 

Poetry has so far kept alive in our minds the old animative 
theory of nature, that it is no great effort to us to fancy the 
waterspout a huge giant or sea-monster, and to depict in what 
we call appropriate metaphor its march across the fields of 
ocean. But where such forms of speech are current among 
less educated races, they are underlaid by a distinct prosaic 
meaning of fact. Thus the waterspouts vv^hich the Japanese see 
so often off their coasts are to them long-tailed dragons, " flying 
up into the air with a swift and violent motion," wherefore they 
call them " tatsmaki," " spouting dragons." ^ Waterspouts are 
believed by some Chinese to be occasioned by the ascent and 
descent of the drasfon ; althous^h never seen head and tail at 
once for clouds, fishermen and sea-side folk catch occasional 
glimpses of the monster ascending from the water and descend- 
ing to it.^ In the mediaevpi Chronicle of John of Bromton 
there is mentioned a wonder which happens about once a month 
in the Gulf of Satalia, on the Pamphylian coast. A great black 

^ Origen. de Principiis, i. 7, 3 ; Pamphil. Apolog. j)ro Origlne, ix, 84. 
2 De Maistre, 'Soirees de Saint- Petersbourg,' vol. ii. p. 210, see 184. 
^ Kaempfer, 'Japan,' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 084. 

* Doolittle, ' Chinese,' vol. ii. p. 265; see Ward, 'Hindoos,' vol. i. p. 140 
(Indra's elephants drinking). 


dragon seems to come in the clouds, letting down his head into 
the waves, while his tail seems fixed to the sky, and this dragon 
draws up the waves to him with such avidity that even a laden 
ship would be taken up on high, so that to avoid this danger 
the crews ought to shout and beat boards to drive the dragon off. 
But, concludes the chronicler, some indeed say that this is not 
a dragon, but the sun drawing up the water, which seems more 
true.^ The Moslems still account for waterspouts as caused by 
gigantic demons, such as that one described in the "Arabian 
Nights : " — '' The sea became troubled before them, and there 
arose from it a black pillar, ascending towards the sky, and 
approaching the meadow . . . and behold it was a Jinnee, of 
gigantic stature."- The diniculty in interpreting language like 
this is to know how far it is seriously and how far fancifully 
meant. But this doubt in no way goes against its original 
animistic meaning, of which there can be do question in the 
following story of a " great sea-serpent " current among a 
barbarous East African tribe. A chief of the Wanika told 
Dr. Krapf of a great serpent which is sometimes seen out at 
sea, reaching from the sea to the sky, and appearing especially 
during heavy rain. " I told them," says the missionary, " that 
this was no serpent, but a waterspout."^ Out of the similar 
phenomena on land there has arisen a similar group of myths. 
The Moslem fancies the whirling sand-pillar of the desert to be 
caused by the flight of an evil jinn, and the East African 
simply calls it a demon (p'hepo). To traveller after traveller 
who gazes on these monstrous shapes gliding majestically across 
the desert, the thouo^ht occurs that the well-remembered 
"Arabian Nights' " descriptions rest upon personifications of 
the sand-pillars themselves, as the gigantic demons into which 
fancy can even now so naturally shape them.'^ 

Rude and distant tribes agree in the conception of the Rain- 

^ Cliron. Job. Bromton, in ' Hist. Angl. Scriptores,' x. Ric. I. p. 121G. 

2 Lane, 'Thousand and One N.' voL i. p. 30, 7. 

3 Krapf, 'Travels,' p. 198. 

* Lane, ibid. pp. 30, 42 ; Burton, * El Medinali and I\Ieccali,' vol. ii. p. GO ; 
* Lake Regions,' vol. i. p. 297 ; J. D. Hooker, ' Himalayan Journals,' vol. i. 
p. 79 ; Tylor, 'Mexico,' p. 30 ; Tyorman and Bonnet, vol. ii. p. 362. 


bow as a living monster. New Zealand myth, describing the 
battle of the Tempest against the Forest, tells how the Rain- 
bow arose and placed his month close to Tane-mahuta, the 
Father of Trees, and continued to assault him till his trunk was 
snapt in two, and his broken branches strewed the ground.^ It 
is not only in mere nature-myth like this, but in actual awe- 
struck belief and terror, that the idea of the live Rainbow is 
worked out. The Karens of Birma say it is a spirit or demon. 
"The Rainbov»r can devour men. . . . When it devours a person, 
he dies a sudden or violent death. All persons that die badly, 
by falls, by drowning, or by wild beasts, die because the Rain- 
bow has devoured their ka-la, or spirit. On devouring persons 
it becomes thirsty, and comes down to drink, when it is seen in 
the sky drinking water. Therefore when people see the Rain- 
bow they say, ' The Rainbow has come to drink water. Look 
out, some one or other will die violently by an evil death.' If 
children are playing, their parents will say to them, ' The Rain- 
bow has come down to drink. Play no more, lest some accident 
should happen to you.' And after the Rainbow has been seen, 
if any fatal accident happens to any one, it is said the Rainbow 
has devoured him."^ The Zulu ideas correspond in a curious 
way with these. The Rainbow lives with a snake, that is, where 
it is there is also a snake ; or it is like a sheep, and dwells in a 
pool. When it touches the earth, it is drinking at a pool. Men 
are afraid to wash in a large pool ; they say there is a Rainbow 
in it, and if a man goes in, it catches and eats him. The Rain- 
bow, coming out of a river or pool and resting on the ground, 
poisons men whom it meets, affecting them with eruptions. 
Men say, " The Rainbow is disease. If it rests on a man, 
something will happen to him." ^ Lastly, in Dahome, Danh the 
Heavenly Snake, which makes the Popo beads and confers 
wealth on man, is the Rainbow. ^ 

To the theory of Animism belong those endless tales which 
all nations tell of the presiding genii of nature, the spirits of 

1 Taylor, 'New Zealand,' p. 121. 

2 Mason, ' Karens,' in ' Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1865, part ii. p. 217. 

3 Callaway, ' Zulu Tales, ' vol. i. p. 294. 

^ Bnrton, 'Dahome,' vol. ii. p, 148 ; see 242. 


cliffs, wells, waterfalls, volcanos, the elves aud woodnymphs seen 
at times by human eyes when wandering by moonlight or 
assembled at their fairy festivals. Such beings may personify 
the natural objects they belong to, as when, in a North 
American tale, the guardian spirit of waterfalls rushes through 
the lodge as a raging current, bearing rocks and trees along in 
its tremendous course, and then the guardian spirit of the 
islands of Lake Superior enters in the guise of rolling waves 
covered with silver-sparkling foam. ^ Or they may be guiding 
and power-giving spirits of nature, like the spirit Fugamu, 
whose work is the cataract of the Nguyai, and who still 
wanders night and day around it, though the negroes who tell 
of him can no longer see his bodily form.^ The belief pre- 
vailinof throu^-h the lower culture that the diseases which vex 
mankind are brought by individual personal spirits, is one 
which has produced striking examples of mythic development. 
Thus the savage Karen lives in terror of the mad "' la," the 
epileptic "la," and the rest of the seven evil demons who go 
about seeking his life ; and it is with a fancy not many degrees 
removed from this early stage of thought that the Persian sees 
in bodily shape the apparition of Al, the scarlet fever : — 

" Would you know Al ? she seems a blushing maid,? 
With locks of flame and cheeks all rosy red." ^ 

It is with this deep old spiritualistic belief clearly in view 
that the ghastly tales are to be read where pestilence and 
death come on their errand in weird human shape. To the 
mind of the Israelite, death and pestilence took the personal 
form of the destroying angel Avho smote the doomed.^ When 
the great plague raged in Justinian's time, men saw on the sea 
brazen barks whose crews were black and headless men, and 
where they landed, the pestilence broke out.^ When the plague 

^ Schoolcraft, ' Algic Res.' vol. ii. p. 148. 

2 Du Cliaillu, 'Ashango-land,' p. 100. 

3 Jas. Atkinson, ' Customs of the Women of Persia,' p. 49, 
^ 2 Sara. xxiv. 16 ; 2 Kings xix. 35. 

'" G. S. Assemanni 'Bibliotheca Orientalis,' ii. Bid. 


fell on Rome in Gregory's time, the saint rising from prayer 
saw Michael standing with his bloody sword on Hadrian's castle 
— the archangel stands there yet in bronze, giving the old fort 
its newer name of the Castle of St. Angelo. Among a whole 
group of stories of the pestilence seen in personal shape 
travelling to and fro in the land, perhaps there is none more 
vivid than this Slavonic one. There sat a Eussian under a 
larch-tree, and the sunshine cflared like fire. He saw somethine^ 
coming from afar ; he locked again — it was the Pest-maiden, 
huge of stature, all shrouded in linen, striding toward him. He 
would have fled in terror, but the form grasped him with her 
long outstretched hand. " Knowest thou the Pest ? " she said ; 
" I am she. Take me on thy shoulders and carry me through 
all Kussia ; miss no village, no town, for I must visit all. But 
fear not for thyself, thou shalt be safe amid the dying." Cling- 
ing with her long ha.nds, she clambered on the peasant's back ; 
he stepped onward, saw the form above him as he went, but 
felt no burden. First he bore her to the towns ; they found 
there joyous dance and song; but the form waved her linen 
shroud, and joy and mirth were gone. As the wretched man 
looked round, he saw mourning, he heard the tolling of the 
bells, there came funeral processions, the graves could not hold 
the dead. He passed on, and coming near each village heard 
the shriek of the dying, saw all faces white in the desolate 
houses. But high on the hill stands his own hamlet : his wife, 
his little children are there, and the aged parents, and his 
heart bleeds as he draws near. Y\^ith strong gripe he holds the 
maiden fast, and plunges with her beneath the waves. He 
sank : she rose again, but she quailed before a heart so fearless, 
and fled far away to the forest and the mountain."^ 

Yet, if mythology be surveyed in a more comprehensive 
view, it is seen that its animistic development falls within a 
broader generalization still. The explanation of the course and 
change of nature, as caused by life such as the life of the 
thinking man who gazes on it, is but a part of a far wider 
mental process. It belongs to that greatjoctrine of analogy, 

^ Hamisch, 'Slav. Mj'-thus,' p. 322. Compare Torqiiemada, 'Monarqiiia 
Indiana,' i. c. 14 (Mexico) ; Bastiaii, ' Psycliologie,' p. 197. 


from which we have gained so much of our apprehension of the 
world around us. Distrusted as it now is by severer science for 
its misleading results, analogy is still to us a chief means of 
discovery and illustration, while in earlier grades of education 
its influence was all but paramount. Analogies which are but 
fancy to us were to men of past ages realily7'" They could see 
the flame licking its yet "undevoured prey with tongues of fire, 
or the serpent gliding along the waving sword from hilt to point ;, 
they could feel a live creature gnawing within their bodies in 
the pangs of hunger ; they heard the voices of the hill-dwarfs 
answering in the echo, and the chariot of the Heaven-god 
rattling in thunder over the solid firmament. Men to w^hom 
these were living thoughts had no need of the school- 
master and his rules of composition, his injunctions to use 
metaphor cautiously, and to take continual care to make all 
similes consistent. The similes of the old bards and orators 
were consistent, because they seemed to see and hear and feel 
them : what we call poetry was to them real life, not as to the 
modern versemaker a masquerade of gods and heroes, shep- 
herds and shepherdesses, stage heroines and philosophic savages 
in paint and feathers. It was with a far deeper consciousness 
that the circumstance of nature was worked out in endless 
imaginative detail in ancient days and among uncultured 

Upon the sky above the hill-country of Orissa, Pidzu Pennu, 
the Rain-god of the Khonds, rests as he joours down the 
showers through his sieve.^ Over Peru there stands a princess 
with a vase of rain, and when her brother strikes the pitcher, 
men hear the shock in thunder and see the flash in lightning.^ 
To the old Greeks the rainbow seemed stretched down by Jove 
from heaven, a purple sign of war and tempest, or it was the 
personal Iris, messenger between gods and men.^ To the South 
Sea islander it was the heaven-ladder where heroes of old 
climbed up and down ; ^ and so to the Scandinavian it was 

* Macplierson, 'India,* p. 357. 

2 Markham, * Quichua Gr. and Die' p. 9. 

3 Wclcker, 'Griecli. Gotterl.' vol. i. p. 690. 

* Ellis, 'Polyn. Pves.' vol. i. p. 231 ; Polack, ' New. Z.' vol. i. p. 273. 


Bifrost; the trembling bridge, timbered of three hues and 
stretched from sky to earth ; and in German folk-lore it is the 
bridge where the souls of the just are led by their guardian 
angels across to paradise.^ As the Israelite called it the bow 
of Jehovah in the clouds, it is to the Hindu the bow of Rama/ 
and to the Finn the bow of Tiermes the Thunderer, who slays 
with it the sorcerers that hunt after men's lives ; ^ it is 
imagined, moreover, as a gold-embroidered scarf, a head-dress of 
feathers, St. Bernard's crown, or the sickle of an Esthonian 
deity.^ And yet through all such endless varieties of mythic 
conception there runs one main principle, the evident sugges- 
tion and analogy of nature. It has been said of the savages of 
North America, that "there is always something actual and 
physical to ground an Indian fancy on." ^ The saying goes too 
far, but within limits it is emphatically true, not of North 
American Indians alone, but of mankind. 

Such resemblances as have just been displayed thrust them- 
selves directly on the mind, without any necessary intervention 
of words. Deep as language lies in our mental life, the direct 
Campari son of obJe'ct"~with^bbject, and action with' action, lies 
yet deeper. The myth-maker's mind shows forth even among 
the deaf-and-dumb, v/ho work out just such analogies of nature 
in their wordless thought. Again and again they have been 
found to suppose themselves taught by their guardians to wor- 
ship and pray to sun, moon, and stars, as personal creatures. 
Others have described their early thoughts of the heavenly 
bodies as analogous to things within their reach, one fancying 
the moon made like a dumpling and rolled over the tree-tops 
like a marble across a table, and the stars cut out with great 
scissors and stuck against the sky, while another supposed the 
moon a furnace and the stars fire-grates, which the people above 
the firmament light up as we kindle iires.^ Now the mythology 

1 Grimm, ' D. M.'pp. 694—6. 

" Ward, 'Hindoos,' vol. i, p. 140. 

^ Castreii, 'Finnisclie Mytliolo<^ie, ' pp. 48, 49. 

^ Delbnick in Lazarus and Steinthal's Zeitschrift, voL iii. p. 269. 

* Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 520. 

« Sicard, * Tlieorie des Signes, etc' Paris, 1808, vol. ii. p. 634; 'Personal 


of mankind at large is full of conceptions of nature like these, 
and to assume for them no deeper original source than meta- 
phorical phrases, would be to ignore one of the great transitions 
of our intellectual history. 

Language, there is no doubt, has had a great share in the 
formation of myth. The mere fact of its individualizing in 
words such notions as winter and summer, cold and heat, war 
and peace, vice and virtue, gives the myth-maker the means 
of imagining these thoughts as personal beings. Language 
not only acts in thorough unison with the imagination whose 
products it expresses, but it goes on producing of itself, and 
thus, by the side of the mythic conceptions in which language 
has followed imagination, we have others in which language 
has led, and imagination has followed in the track. These 
two actions coincide too closely for their effects to be tho- 
roughly separated, but they should be distinguished as far as 
possible. For myself, I am disposed to think (differing here 
in some measure from Professor Max Muller's view of the sub- 
ject) that the m.ythok|gy„o£.,tlie lower races rests especially on 
a basis of real and sensible analogy, and that, the great expan- 
sion of verbal metaphor into myth belongs to more advanced- 
periods^f_cjyilization. In a word, I take material myth to be ' 
the primary, and verbal myth to be the secondary formation. 
Eut whether this opinion be historically sound or not, the dif- 
ference in nature between myth founded on fact and myth 
founded on word is sufficiently manifest. The v/ant of reality 
in verbal metaphor cannot be effectually hidden by the utmost 
stretch of imagination. In spite of this essential weakness, how- ^ 
ever, the habit of realizing everything that words can describe is / 
one which has grown and flourished in the world. Descriptive/ 
names become personal, the notion of personality stretches to 
take in even the most abstract notions to which a name may 
be applied, and realized name, epithet, and metaphor pass into 
interminable mythic growths by the process which Max Mliller 
has so aptly characterized as " a disease of language." It would 

Eecollections,' by Charlotte Elizabeth, London 1841, p. 182; Dr. Orpen, 'The 
Contrast,' p. 25. Compare Meiners, vol. i. p. 42. 


be difficult indeed to define the exact thought lying at the root of 
every mythic conception, but in easy cases the course of forma- 
tion can be quite well followed. North American tribes have 
personified Nipinukhe and Pipuniikhe, the beings who bring 
the spring (nipin) and the winter (pipun) ; Nipinukhe brings 
the heat and birds and verdure, Pipunukhe ravages with his 
cold winds, his ice and snow; one comes as the other goes, and 
between them they divide the world.^ Just such personification 
as this furnishes the staple of endless nature-metaphor in our 
own European jDoetry. In the springtime it comes to be said that 
May has conquered Winter, his gate is open, he has sent letters 
before him to tell the fruit that he is coming, his tent is pitched, 
he brings the woods their summer clothing. Thus, when Night 
is personified, we see how it comes to pass that Day is her son, 
and how each in a heavenly chariot drives round the world. 
To minds in this mythologic stage, the Curse becomes a per- 
sonal being, hovering in space till it can light upon its victim ; 
Time and Nature arise as real entities; Fate and Fortune be- 
come personal arbiters of our lives. But at last, as the change 
of meaning goes on, thoughts that once had a more real sense 
fade into mere poetic forms of speech. We have but to com- 
pare the effect of ancient and modern personification on our own 
minds, to understand something of Avhat has happened in the 
interval. Milton may be consistent, classical, majestic, when 
he tells how Sin and Death sat within the gates of hell, and how 
they built their bridge of length prodigious across the deep abyss 
to earth. Yet such descriptions leave but scant sense of meaning 
on modern minds, and we are apt to say, as we might of some 
counterfeit bronze from Naples, "For a sham antique how cleverly 
it is done." Entering into the mind of the old Norseman, we 
guess how much more of meaning than the cleverest modern 
imitation can carry, lay in his pictures of Hel, the death-goddess, 
stern and grim and livid, dwelling in her high and strong- 
barred house, and keeping in her nine worlds the souls of the 
departed ; Hunger is her dish. Famine is her knife, Care is 
her bed, and Misery her curtain. When such old material 

^ Le Jeime in ' Eel. des Jes. clans la IToiivelle France,' 1634, p. 13. 



descriptions are transferred to modern times, in spite of all the 
accuracy of reproduction their spirit is quite changed. The 
story of the monk who displayed among his relics the garments 
of St. Faith is to us only a jest ; and we call it quaint humour 
when Charles Lamb, falling old and infirm, once wrote to a 
friend, " My bed-fellows are Cough and Cramp ; we sleep three 
in a bed." Perhaps we need not appreciate the drollery any 
the less for seeing in it at once a consequence and a record of a 
past intellectual life. 

The distinction of grammatical gender is a process intimately 
connected with the formation of myths. Grammatical gender 
is of two kinds. What may be called sexual gender is familiar 
to all classically-educated Englishmen, though their mother- 
tongue has mostly lost its traces. Thus in Latin not only are 
such words as homo and femina classed naturally as mas- 
culine and feminine, but such words as pes and gladius are 
made masculine, and higa and navis feminine, and the same 
distinction is actually drawn between such abstractions as 
honos and fides. That sexless objects and ideas should thus 
be classed as male and female, in spite of a new gender — the 
neuter or " neither " gender — having been defined, seems in part 
explained by considering this latter to have been of later forma- 
tion, and the original Indo-European genders to have been 
only masculine and feminine, as is actually the case in Hebrew. 
Though the practice of attributing sex to objects that have 
none is not easy to explain in detail, yet there seems nothing 
mysterious in its principles, to judge from one at least of its 
main ideas, which is still quite intelligible. Language makeS 
an admirably appropriate distinction between strong and weak, 
stern and gentle, rough and delicate, when it contrasts them , 
as male and female. It is possible to understand even such 
fancies as those which Pietro della Valle describes among the 
mediseval Persians, distinguishing between male and female, 
that is to say, practically between robust and tender, even in 
such things as food and cloth, air and water, and prescribing 
their proper use accordingly .^ And no phrase could be more 

^ Pietro clella Yalle, 'Yiaggi,' letter xvi. 

VOL. I. T 


plain and forcible than that of the Dayaks of Borneo, who say 
of a heavy downpour of rain, "njatn arai, 'sa ! " — "a/ierain, 
this!"^ Difficult as it maybe to decide how far objects and 
thoughts were classed in language as male and female because 
they were personified, and how far they were personified 
because they were classed as male and female, it is evident at 
any rate that these two processes fit together and promote 
each other.^ 

Moreover, in studying languages which lie beyond the range 
of common European scholarship, it is found that the theory 
of grammatical gender must be extended into a wider field. 
The Dravidian languages of South India make the interesting 
distinction between a " high-caste or major gender," which in- 
cludes rational beings, i. e., deities and men, and a " caste-less 
or minor gender," which includes irrational objects, whether 
living animals or lifeless things.^ The distinction between an 
animate and an inanimate gender appears with especial import 
in a family of North American Indian languages, the Algonquin. 
Here not only do all animals belong to the animate gender, but 
also the sun, moon, and stars, thunder and lightning, as being 
personified creatures. The animate gender, moreover, includes 
not only trees and fruits, but certain exceptional lifeless objects 
which appear to owe this distinction to their special sanctity 
or power ; such are the stone v/hich serves as the altar of sacri- 
fice to the manitus, the bow, the eagle's feather, the kettle, 
tobacco-pipe, drum, and wampum. Where the whole animal 
is animate, parts of its body considered separately may be in- 
animate — hand or foot, beak or wing. Yet even here, for 
special reasons, special objects are treated as of animate gen- 
der; such are the eagle's talons, the bear's claws, the beaver's 
castor, the man's nails, and other objects for which there is 
claimed a peculiar or mystic power.^ If to any one it seems 

^ * Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii. p. xxvii. 

2 See remarks on the tendency of sex-denoting language to produce myth in 
Africa, in W. H. Bleek, 'Reynard the Fox in S. Afr.' p. xi. ; * Origin of Lang.* 
p. xxiii. 

3 Caldwell, * Comp. Gr. of Dravidian Langs.' p. 172. 

^ Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes, ' part ii. p. 366. For other cases see especially 



surprising that savage thought should be steeped through and 
through in mythology, let him consider the meaning that is ') 
involved in a grammar of nature like this. Such a language 
is the very reflexion of a mythic world. 

There is yet another way in v^^hich language and mythology 
can act and re-act on one another. Even we, with our blunted 
mythologic sense, cannot give an individual name to a lifeless 
object, such as a boat or a weapon, without in the very act 
imagining for it something of a personal nature. Among nations 
whose mythic conceptions have remained in full vigour, this 
action may be yet more vivid. Perhaps very low savages may 
not be apt to name their implements or their canoes as though 
they were live people, but races a few stages above them show 
the habit in perfection. Among the Zulus we hear of names 
for clubs, Igumgehle or Glutton, U-nothlola-mazibuko or He- 
who-watches-the-fords ; among names for assagais are Imbubuzi 
or Groan-causer, U-silo-si-lambile or Hungry Leopard, and the 
weapon being also used as an implement, a certain assagai 
bears the peaceful name of XJ-simbela-banta-bami, He-digs-up- 
for-my-children.^ A similar custom prevailed among the New 
Zealanders. The traditions of their ancestral migrations tell 
how Ngahue made from his jasper stone those two sharp axes 
whose names were Tutauru and Hauhau-te-rangi ; how with 
these axes were shaped the canoes Arawa and Tainui ; how the 
two stone anchors of Te Arawa were called Toka-parore or Wry- 
stone, and Tu-te-rangi-haruru or Like-to-the-roaring-sky. These 
legends do not break off in a remote past, but carry on a chro- 
nicle which reaches into modern times. It is only lately, the 
Maoris say, that the famous axe Tutauru was lost, and as for 
the ear-ornament named Kaukau-matua, which was made from 
a chip of the same stone, they declare that it was not lost till 
1846, when its owner, Te Heuheu, perished in a landslip.^ Up 
from this savage level the same childlike habit of giving per- 

Pott in Erscli and Gruber's * Allg. Encyclop.' art. * Geschlecht ;' also D. Forbes, 
'Persian Gr.' p. 26 ; Latham, ' Descr. Eth.' vol. ii. p. 60. 

^ Callaway, ' Relig. of Amazulu,' p. 166. 

2 Gre}', 'Polyn. Myth.' pp. 132, etc., 211 ; Shortland, 'Traditions of N. Z.' 
p. 15. 

T 2 


sonal names to lifeless objects may be traced/as we read of 
Thor's hammer, Miolnir, whom the giants know as he comes 
flying through the air, or of Arthur's brand, Excalibur, caught 
by the arm clothed in white samite when Sir Bedivere flung 
him back into the lake, or of the Cid's mighty sword Tizona, 
the Firebrand, whom he vowed to bury in his own breast were 
she overcome through cowardice of his. 
/ The teachings of a childlike primseval philosophy ascribing 
I personal life to nature at large, and the early tyranny of speech 
over the human mind, have thus been two great and, perhaps, 
; greatest agents in mythologic development. Other causes, too^ 
have been at work, which will be noticed in connexion with 
special legendary groups, and a full list, could it be drawn up, 
might include as contributories many other intellectual actions. 
It must be thoroughly understood, however,^at such investi- 
gation_ofji]ie^r£>aesses-o£jiiyth-formation demands a lively sense 
ofthe state_o£,J3aenV minds in the mythologic period. When 
the Russians in Siberia listened to the talk of the rude Kirgis, 
they stood amazed at the barbarians' ceaseless flow of poetic 
improvisation, and exclaimed, " Whatever these people see gives 
birth to fancies!" Just so the civilized European may contrast 
his own stiff orderly prosaic thought with the wild shifting 
poetry and legend of the old myth-maker, and may say of him 
that everything he saw gave birth to fancy. Wanting the 
power of transporting himself into this imaginative atmosphere,, 
the student occupied with the analysis of the mythic world, 
may fail so pitiably in conceiving its depth and intensity of 
meaning as to convert it into stupid fiction. Those can see 
more justly who have the poet's gift of throwing their minds 
back into the world's older life, like the actor who for a mo- 
ment can forget himself and become what he pretends to be. 
Wordsworth, that "modern ancient," as Max Mliller has so well 
called him, could write of Storm and Winter, or of the naked 
Sun climbing the sky, as though he were some Vedic poet at 
the head-spring of the Aryan race, "seeing" with his mind's 
eye a mythic hymn to Agni or Yaruna. Fully to understand 
an old-world myth needs not evidence and argument alone, but 
deep poetic feeling. 


Yet sucli of us as share but very little in this rare gift, may 
make shift to let evidence in some measure stand in its stead. In 
the poetic stage of thought we may see that ideal conceptions 
once shaped in the mind must have assumed some such reality 
to grown-up men and women as they still do to children. 
I have never forgotten the vividness with which, as a child, I 
fancied I might look through a great telescope, and see the con- 
stellations stand round the sky, red, green, and yellow, as I had 
just been shown them on the celestial globe. The intensity of 
mythic fancy may be brought even more nearly home to our 
minds by comparing it with the morbid subjectivity of illness. 
Among the lower races, and high above their level, morbid 
ecstasy brought on by meditation, fasting, narcotics, excitement, 
or disease, is a state common and held in honour among the 
very classes specially concerned with mythic idealism, and 
under its influence the barriers between sensation and imagi- 
nation break utterly away. A North American Indian pro- 
phetess once related the story of her first vision : At her 
solitary fast at womanhood she fell into an ecstasy, and at the 
call of the spirits she went up to heaven by the path that leads 
to the opening of the sky ; there she heard a voice, and, 
standing still, saw the figure of a man standing near the path, 
whose head was surrounded by a brilliant halo, and his breast 
was covered with squares ; he said, " Look at me, my name is 
Oshauwauegeeghick, the Bright Blue Sky ! " Recording her 
experience afterwards in the rude picture-writing of her race, 
she painted this glorious spirit with the hierogl3rphic horns of 
power and the brilliant halo round his head. We know enough 
of the Indian pictographs, to guess how a fancy with these 
familiar details of the picture-language came into the poor ex- 
cited creature's mind ; but how far is our cold analysis from her 
utter belief that in vision she had really seen this bright being, 
this Red Indian Zeus.^ Far from being: an isolated case, this is 
scarcely more tlian a fair example of the rule that any idea 
shaped and made current by mythic fancy, may at once acquire 
all the definiteness of fact. Even if to the first shaper it be no 

^ Schoolcraft, ' Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 391 and pi. 55. 


more than lively imagination, yet, when it comes to be em- 
bodied in words and to pass from house to house, those who 
hear it become capable of the most intense belief that it may 
be seen in material shape, that it has been seen, that they 
themselves have seen it. The South African w^ho believes in a 
god with a crooked leg sees him with a crooked leg in dreams and 
visions.^ In the time of Tacitus it was said, with a more poetic 
imagination, that in the far north of Scandinavia men might see 
the very forms of the gods and the rays streaming from their 
heads.- In the 6th century the famed Nile-god might still be 
seen, in gigantic human form, rising waist-high from the waters 
of his river.^ Want of originality indeed seems one of the most 
remarkable features in the visions of mystics. The stiff Ma- 
donnas with their crowns and petticoats still transfer themselves 
from the pictures on cottage walls to appear in spiritual per- 
sonality to peasant visionaries, as the saints who stood in vision 
before ecstatic monks of old were to be known by their conven- 
tional pictorial attributes. When the devil with horns, hoofs, and 
tail had once become a fixed image in the popular mind, of 
course men saw him in this conventional shape. So real had St. 
Anthony's satyr-demon become to men's opinion, that there is a 
grave 13th century account of the mummy of such a devil being 
exhibited at Alexandria ; and it is not fifteen years back from the 
present time that there was a story current at Teignmouth of a 
devil walking up the walls of the houses, and leaving his fiendish 
backward footprints in the snow. Nor is it vision alone that is 
concerned with the delusive realization of the ideal; there is, 
as it were, a conspiracy of all the senses to give it proof. To 
take a striking instance : there is an irritating herpetic disease 
which gradually encircles the body as with a girdle, whence its 
English name of the shingles (Latin, cingulum). By an ima- 
gination not difficult to understand, this disease is attributed to 
a sort of coiling snake; and I remember a case in Cornwall 
where a girl's family waited in great fear to see if the creature 
would stretch all round her, the belief being that if the snake's 

1 Livingstone, ' S. Afr.' p. 124. 

^ Tac. Germania, 45. 

3 Maury, 'Magie, etc' p. 175. 


Lead and tail met, the patient would die. But a yet fuller 
meaning of tins fantastic notion is brought out in an account 
by Dr. Bastian of a physician who suffered in a painful disease, 
as though a snake were twined round him, and in whose mind 
this idea reached such reality that in moments of excessive pain 
he could see the snake and touch its rough scales with his 

The relation of morbid imagination to myth is peculiarly 
well instanced in the history of a widespread belief, extending 
through savage, barbaric, classic, oriental, and mediseval life, 
and surviving to this day in European superstition. This belief, 
which may be conveniently called the Doctrine of Werewolves, 
is that certain men, by natural gift or magic art, can turn for a 
time into ravening wild beasts. The origin of this idea is by 
no means sufficiently explained. What we are especially con- 
cerned with is the fact of its prevalence in the world. It may 
be noticed, however, that such a notion is quite consistent with 
the animistic theory that a man's soul may go out of his body 
and enter that of a beast or bird, and also with the opinion 
that men may be transformed into animals ; both these ideas hav- 
ing an important place in the belief of mankind, from savagery 
onward. The doctrine of werewolves is substantially that of 
a temporary metempsychosis or metamorphosis. Now it really 
occurs that, in various forms of mental disease, patients prowl 
shyly, long to bite and destroy mankind, and even fancy them- 
selves transformed into wild beasts. Belief in the possibility 
of such transformation may have been the very suggesting 
cause which led the patient to imagine it taking place in his 
own person. But at any rate such insane delusions do occur, 
and physicians apply to them the mythologic term of lycan- 
thropy. The belief in men being werewolves, man-tigers, and 
the like, may thus have the strong support of the very wit- 
nesses who believe themselves to be such creatures. Through 
the mass of ethnographic details relating to this subject, there 
is manifest a remarkable uniformity of principle. 

Among the non- Aryan indigenes of India, the tribes of the 
Garrow Hills describe as " transformation into a tiger " a kind 
of temporary madness, apparently of the nature of delirium 


tremens, in which the patient walks like a tiger, shunning 
society.^ The Khonds of Orissa say that some among them 
have the art of ^^mleepa," and by the aid of a god become 
"mleepa" tigers for the pm^pose of killing enemies, one of 
the man's four souls going out to animate the bestial form. 
Natural tigers, say the Khonds, kill game to benefit men, who 
find it half-devoured and share it, whereas man-killing tigers 
are either incarnations of the wrathful Earth-goddess, or they 
are transformed men.^ Thus the notion of man-tigers serves, 
as similar notions do elsewhere, to account for the fact that 
certain individual wild beasts show a peculiar hostility to man. 
Among the Ho of Singbhoom it is related, as an example of 
similar belief, that a man named Mora saw his wife killed by 
a tiger, and followed the beast till it led him to the house 
of a man named Poosa. Telling Poosa's relatives of what had 
occurred, they replied that they were aware that he had the 
power of becoming a tiger, and accordingly they brought him 
out bound, and Mora deliberately killed him. Inquisition being 
made by the authorities, the family deposed, in explanation of 
their belief, that Poosa had one night devoured an entire goat, 
roaring like a tiger whilst eating it, and that on another 
occasion he told his friends he had a longing to eat a parti- 
cular bullock, and that very night that very bullock was killed 
and devoured by a tiger.^ South-eastern Asia is not less 
familiar with the idea of sorcerers turning into man-tigers and 
wandering after prey ; thus the Jakuns of the Malay Penin- 
sula believe that when a inan becomes a tiger to revenge 
himself on his enemies, the transformation happens just before 
he springs, and has been seen to take place.^ 

How vividly the imagination of an excited tribe, once inocu- 
lated with a belief like this, can realize it into an event, is 
graphically told by Dobrizhoffer among the Abipones of South 
America. When a sorcerer, to get the better of an enemy, 

1 Eliot in 'As. Ees.' vol. iii. p. 32. 

2 Macpherson, ' India,' pp. 92, 99, 108. 

3 Dalton, ' Kols of Chota-Nagpore ' in * Tr. Eth. Soc. ' vol. vi. p. 32. 

* J. Cameron, ' Malayan India,' p. 393 ; Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 119, 
vol. iii. pp. 261, 273 ; 'As. Res.' vol. vi. p. 173. 


threatens to change himself into a tiger and tear his tribes- 
men to pieces, no sooner does he begin to roar, than all the 
neighbours fly to a distance ; but still they hear the feigned 
sounds. " Alas ! " they cry, " his whole body is beginning to 
be covered with tiger-spots ! " " Look, his nails are growing," 
the fear-struck women exclaim, although they cannot see the 
rogue, who is concealed within his tent, but distracted fear 
presents things to their eyes which have no real existence. 
" You daily kill tigers in the plain without dread," said the 
missionary ; " why then should you weakly fear a false ima- 
ginary tiger in the town ? " " You fathers don't understand 
these matters," they reply with a smile. "We never fear, but 
kill tigers in the plain, because we can see them. Artificial 
tigers we do fear, because they can neither be seen nor killed 
by us." ■■• Africa is especially rich in myths of man-lions, man- 
leopards, man-hyasnas. In the Kanuri language of Bornu, there 
is grammatically formed from the word " bultu," a hysena, the 
verb " bultungin," meaning " I transform myself into a hy£ena ;" 
and the natives maintain that there is a town called Kabutiloa, 
where every man possesses this faculty.^ The tribe of Budas in 
Abyssinia, iron-workers and potters, are believed to combine 
with these civilized avocations the gift of the evil eye and the 
power of turning into hyaenas, wherefore they are excluded from 
society and from the Christian sacrament. In the ' Life of 
Nathaniel Pearce,' the testimony of one Mr. Coffin is printed, 
who almost saw the transformation happen on a young Buda, 
his servant, the young man vanishing on an open plain, when a 
large hyaena was seen running off. Coffin says, moreover, that 
the Budas wear a peculiar gold ear-ring, and this he has fre- 
quently seen in the ears of hyaenas shot in traps, or speared by 
himself and others ; the Budas are dreaded for their magical 
arts, and the editor of the book suggests that they put ear-rings 
in hyaenas' ears to encourage a profitable superstition.^ In 
Ashango-land, M. Du Chaillu tells the following suggestive 

^ Dobrizhoffer, * Abiponcs,' vol. ii. p. 77. See J. G. Miiller, 'Amer. Urrelig.' 
p. 63; Martius, ' Ethn. Amer.' p. 652; Oviedo, 'Nicaragua,' p. 229; Pieclra- 
hita, ' Nuevo Reyno de Granada,* part i. lib. i. c. 3. 

2 Koelle, *Afr. Lit. and Kanuri Vocab.' p. 275. 

^ 'Life and Adventures of Nathaniel Pearce' (1810—9), cd. by J. J. Halls, 


story. He was informed that a leopard had killed two men, 
and many palavers were held to settle the affair ; but this was 
no ordinary leopard, but a transformed man. Two of Akon- 
dogo's men had disappeared, and only their blood was found, so 
a great doctor was sent for, who said it was Akondogo's own 
nephew and heir Akosho. The lad was sent for, and when 
asked by the chief, answered, that it was truly he who had 
committed the murders, that he could not help it, for he had 
turned into a leopard, and his heart longed for blood, and after 
each deed he had turned into a man again. Akondogo loved 
the boy so much that he would not believe his confession, till 
Akosho took him to a place in the forest, where lay the mangled 
bodies of the two men, whom he had really murdered under the 
influence of this morbid imagination. He was slowly burnt to 
death, all the people standing by.^ 

Brief mention is enough for the comparatively well-known 
European representatives of these beliefs. What with the 
mere continuance of old tradition, and what with cases of 
patients under delusion believing themselves to have suffered 
transformation, of w^hich a number are on record, the European 
series of details from ancient to modern ages is very complete. 
Of the classic accounts, one of the most remarkable is Petronius 
Arbiter's story of the transformation of a " versipellis " or 
" turnskin ;" this contains the episode of the wolf being wounded 
and the man who wore its shape found with a similar wound, 
an idea not sufficiently proved to belong originally to the lower 
races, but which becomes a familiar feature in European stories 
of werewolves and witches. In Augustine's time magicians 
were persuading their dupes that by means of herbs they could 
turn them to wolves, and the use of salve for this purpose is 
mentioned at a comparatively modern date. Old Scandinavian 
sagas have their werewolf warriors, and " shape-changers " 
(hamrammr) raging in fits of furious madness. The Danes still 

London, 1831, vol i. p. 286 ; also *Tr. Eth. Soc' voL vi. p. 288 ; Waitz, vol. ii. 
p. 504. 

^ Du Chaillu, * Asliango-land,' p. 52. For other African details, see Waitz, 
vol. ii. p. 343 ; J. L. Wilson, 'W. Afr.' pp. 222, 365, 398 ; Burton, *E. Afr.* 
p. 57; Livingstone, 'S. Afr.' pp. 615, 642 ; Magyar, *S. Afr.' p. 136. 


know a man who is a werewolf by his eyebrows meeting, and 
thus resembling a butterfly, the familiar type of the soul, ready 
to fly off and enter some other body. In the last year of the 
Swedish war with Russia, the people of Kalmar said the wolves 
which overran the land were transformed Swedish prisoners. 
From Herodotus' legend of the Neuri who turned every year 
for a few days to wolves, we follow the idea on Slavonic ground 
to where Livonian sorcerers bathe yearly in a river and turn for 
twelve days to wolves ; and widespread Slavonic superstition 
still declares that the wolves that sometimes in bitter winters 
dare to attack men, are themselves " wilkolak," men bewitched 
into wolf's shape. The modern Greeks, instead of the classic 
KvKdvOpoiTtos, adopt the Slavonic term (SpvKoXaKa^ (Bulgarian 
" vrkolak ") ; it is a man who falls into a cataleptic state, while 
his soul enters a wolf and goes ravening for blood. Modern 
Germany, especially in the north, still keeps up the stories of 
wolf-girdles, and in December you must not " talk of the wolf " 
by name, lest the werewolves tear you. Our English word 
"werewolf," that is "man-wolf" (the "verevulf" of Cnut's 
Laws), still reminds us of the old belief in our own country, and 
if it has had for centuries but little place in English folklore, 
this has been not so much for lack of superstition, as of wolves. 
To instance the survival of the idea, transferred to another 
animal, in the more modern witch-persecution, the following 
Scotch story may serve. Certain witches at Tharso for a long 
time tormented an honest fellow under the usual form of cats, 
till one night he put them to flight with his broadsword, and 
cut off the leg of one less nimble than the rest ; taking it up, to 
his amazement he found it to be a woman's leg, and next 
morning he discovered the old hag its owner with but one leg 
left. In France the creature has what is historically the same 
name as our "werewolf;" viz. in early forms "gerulphus," 
" garoul," and now pleonastically " loup-garou." The parliament 
of Franche-Comte made a law in 1573 to expel the werewolves ; 
in 15.98 the werewolf of Angers gave evidence of his hands and 
feet turning to wolfs claws ; in 1603, in the case of Jean 
Grenier, the judge declared lycanthropy to be an insane delu- 
sion, not a crime. In 1G58, a French satirical description of a 



magician could still give the following perfect account of the 
witch-werewolf : " I teach the witches to take the form of 
wolves and eat children, and when any one has cut off one of 
their legs (which proves to be a man's arm) I forsake them 
when they are discovered, and leave them in the power of 
justice." Even in our own day the idea has by no means died 
out of the French peasant's mind. Not ten years ago in 
France, Mr. Baring-Gould found it impossible to get a guide 
after dark across a wild place haunted by a loup-garou, an 
incident which led him afterwards to write his " Book of Were- 
wolves," a monograph of this remarkable combination of myth 
and madness.^ 

If we judged the myths of early ages by the unaided power 
of our modern fancy, we might be left unable to account for 
their immense effect on the life and belief of mankind. But by 
the study of such evidence as this, it becomes possible to realize 
a usual state of the imagination among ancient and savage 
peoples,^ intermedTate" between the conditions of a healthy 
prosaic modern citizen and of a raving fanatic or a patient in a 
fever-v/ard. A poet of our own day has still much in common 
with the minds of uncultured tribes in the mythologic stage 
of thought. The rude man's imaginations may be narrow, 
crude, and repulsive, while the poet's more conscious fictions 
may be highly wrought into shapes of fresh artistic beauty, but 
both share in that sense of the reality of ideas, which fortu- 
nately or unfortunately modern education has proved so power- 
ful to destroy. The change of meaning of a single word will 
tell the history of this transition, ranging from primaeval to 
modern thought. From first to last, the processes of 'phantasy 
have been at work ; but where the savage could see 'phantasms, 
the civilized man has come to amuse himself with fancies. 

^ For collections of European evidence, see Baring-Gould, 'Book of "Werewolves ;' 
Grimm, *D. M.' p. 1047; Dasent, ' l^Torse Tales,' Introd. p. cxix. ; Bastian, 
* Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 32, 566 ; Brand, ' Pop. Ant.' vol. i. p. 312, a^oI. iii. p. 32 ; 
Lecky, *Hist. of Eationalism,' vol. i. p. 82. Particular details in Petron. 
Arbiter, Satir. Ixii. ; Virgil. Eclog. viii. 97 ; Plin. viii. 34 ; Herodot. iv. 105 ; 
Mela ii. 1 ; Angustin.De Civ. Dei, xviii. 17 ; Hanusch, 'Slaw. Myth.' pp. 286, 
320 ; Wuttke, ' Deutsche Yolksaberglaube, ' p. 118. 


IIYTROLOGY— continued. 

Nature-myths, their origin, canon of interpretation, preservation of original 
sense and significant names — ISTature-myths of upper savage races compared 
with related forms among barbaric and civilized nations — Heaven and Earth 
as Universal Parents — Sun and Moon : Eclipse and Sunset, as Hero or Maiden 
swallowed by Monster ; Rising of Sun from Sea and Descent to Under- world • 
Jaws of Night and Death, Symplegades ; Eye of Heaven, eye of Odin and 
the Graise — Sun and Moon as mythic civilizers — Moon, her inconstancy, 
periodical death and revival— Stars, their generation — Constellations, their 
place in Mythology and Astronomy — Wind and Tempest — Thunder — Earth- 

From laying down general principles of myth-development, 
we may now proceed to survey the class of Nature-myths, such 
especially as seem to have their earliest source and truest 
meaning among the lower races of mankind. 

Science, investigating nature, discusses its facts and announces 
its laws in technical language which is clear and accurate to 
trained students, but which falls only as a mystic jargon on the 
ears of barbarians, or peasants, or children. It is to the com- 
prehension of just these simple unschooled minds that the lan- 
guage of poetic myth is spoken, so far at least as it is true 
poetry, and not its quaint affected imitation. The poet con- 
templates the same natural world as the man of science, but in 
his so different craft strives to render difficult thought easy by 
making it visible and tangible, above all by referring the being 
and movement of the world to such personal life as his hearers 
feel within themselves, and thus working out in far-stretched 
fancy the maxim that " Man is the measure of all things." Let 
but the key be recovered to this mythic dialect, and its complex 
and shifting terms will translate themselves into reality, and 


show how far legend, in its sympathetic fictions of war, love 
crime, adventure, fate, is only telling the perennial story of the 
world's daily life. The myths shaped out of those endless 
analogies between man and nature which are the soul of all 
poetry, into those half-human stories still so full to us of 
unfading life and beauty, are the masterpieces of an art belong- 
ing rather to the past than to the present. The growth of myth 
has been checked by science, it is dying of weights and measures, 
of proportions and specimens — it is not only dying, but half 
dead, and students are anatomising it. In this world one must 
do what one can, and if the moderns cannot feel myth as their 
forefathers did, at least they can analyse it. There is a kind of 
intellectual frontier within which he must be who will sym- 
pathise with myth, while he must be without who will inves- 
tigate it, and it is our fortune that we live near this frontier- 
line, and can go in and out. European scholars can still in a 
measure understand the belief of Greeks or Aztecs or Maoris in 
their native myths, and at the same time can compare and 
interpret them without the scruples of men to Avhom such tales 
are history, and even sacred history. Moreover, were the 
whole human race at a uniform level of culture with ourselves, 
it would be hard to bring our minds to conceive of tribes in the 
mental state to which the early growth of nature-myth belongs, 
even as it is now hard to picture to ourselves a condition of 
mankind lower than any that has been actually found. But the 
various grades of existing civilization preserve the landmarks of 
a long course of history, and there survive by millions savages 
and barbarians whose minds still produce, in rude archaic forms, 
man's early mythic representations of nature. 

Those who read for the first time the dissertations of the 
modern school of mythologists, and sometimes even those who 
have been familiar with them for years, are prone to ask, with 
half-incredulous appreciation of the beauty and simplicity of 
their interpretations, can they be really true ? Can so great a part 
of the legendary lore of classic, barbarian, and mediaeval Europe 
be taken up with the everlasting depiction of Sun and Sky, 
Dawn and Gloaming, Day and Night, Summer and Winter, Cloud 
and Tempest ; can so many of the personages of tradition, for all 


their heroic human aspect, have their real origin in anthropo- 
morphic myths of nature ? Without any attempt to discuss 
these opinions at large, it will be seen that inspection of nature- 
mythology from the present point of view tells in their favour, 
at least as to principle. The general theory that such direct 
conceptions of nature as are so naively and even baldly uttered 
in the Veda, are among the primary sources of myth, is enforced 
by evidence gained elsewhere in the world. Especially the 
traditions of savage races display mythic conceptions of the 
outer world, primitive like those of the ancient Aryans, agreeing 
with them in their general character, and often remarkably 
corresponding in their very episodes. At the same time it must be 
clearly understood that the truth of such a general principle is 
no warrant for all the particular interpretations which mytho- 
logists claim to base upon it, for of these in fact many are wildly 
speculative, and many hopelessly unsound. Nature-myth 
demands indeed a recognition of its vast importance in the 
legendary lore of mankind, but only so far as its claim is backed 
by strong and legitimate evidence. 

The close and deep analogies between the life of nature and 
the life of man have been for ages dwelt upon by poets and 
philosophers, who in simile or in argument have told of light 
and darkness, of calm and tempest, of birth, growth, change, 
decay, dissolution, renewal. But no one-sided interpretation 
can be permitted to absorb into a single theory such endless 
many-sided correspondences as these. Rash inferences which 
on the strength of mere resemblance derive episodes of myth 
from episodes of nature must be regarded with utter mistrust, 
for the student who has no more stringent criterion than this 
for his myths of sun and sky and dawn, will find them where- 
ever it pleases him to seek them. It may be judged by simple 
trial what such a method may lead to ; no legend, no allegory, 
no nursery rhyme, is safe from the hermeneutics of a thorough- 
going mythologic theorist. Should he, for instance, demand as 
his property the nursery "Song of Sixpence," his claim would 
be easily established : obviously the four-and-twenty blackbirds 
are the four-and-twenty hours, and the pie that holds them is 
the underlying earth covered with the overarching sky; how 


true a touch of nature it is that when the pie is opened, that is^ 
when day breaks, the birds begin to sing ; the King is the Sun, 
and his counting out his money is pouring out the sunshine, the 
golden shower of Danae ; the Queen is the Moon, and her trans- 
parent honey the moonlight ; the Maid is the " rosy-fingered" 
Dawn who rises before the Sun her master, and hangs out the 
clouds, his clothes, across the sky ; the particular blackbird who 
so tragically ends the tale by snipping off her nose, is the hour 
of sunrise. The time-honoured rhyme realJy wants but one 
thing to jDrove it a Sun-myth, that one thing being a proof by 
some argument more valid than analogy. Or if historical cha- 
racters be selected with any discretion, it is easy to point out 
the solar episodes embodied in their lives. See Cortes landing 
in Mexico, and seeming to the Aztecs their very Sun-priest 
Quetzalcoatl, come back from the East to renew his reign of 
light and glory ; mark him deserting the wife of his youth, even 
as the Sun leaves the Dawn, and again in later life abandoning 
Marina for a new bride ; watch his sun-like career of brilHant 
conquest, checkered with intervals of storm, and declining to a 
death clouded with sorrow and disgrace. The life of Julius 
Caesar would fit as plausibly into a scheme of solar myth ; his 
splendid course as in each new land he came, and saw, and 
conquered ; his desertion of Cleopatra ; his ordinance of the solar 
year for men ; his death at the hand of Brutus, like Sifrit's death 
at the hand of Hagen in the Nibelungen Lied; his falling 
pierced with many bleeding wounds, and shrouding himself in 
his cloak to die in darkness. Of Caesar, better than of Cassius 
his slayer, it might have been said in the language of sun- 
myth : 

"... setting sun, 
As in thy red rays thou dost sink to-night, 
So in his red blood Cassias' day is set ; 
The sun of Eome is set ! " 

Thus, in interpreting heroic legend as based on nature-myth, 
circumstantial analogy must be very cautiously appealed to, and 
at any rate there is need of evidence more cogent than vague 
likenesses between human and cosmic life. Now such evidence 
is forthcoming at its strongest in a croAvd of myths, whose open 


meaning it would be wanton incredulity to doubt, so little do 
they disguise, in name or sense, the familiar aspects of nature 
which they figure as scenes of personal life. Even where the 
tellers of legend may have altered or forgotten its earlier mythic 
meaning, there are often sufficient grounds for an attempt to 
restore it. In spite of change and corruption, myths are slow to 
lose all consciousness of their first origin ; as for instance, classi- 
cal literature retained enough of meaning in the great Greek 
sun-myth, to compel even Lempriere of the Classical Dictionary 
to admit that Apollo or Phoebus '' is often confounded with the 
sun." For another instance, the Greeks had still present to their 
thoughts the meaning of Argos Panoptes, lo's hundred-eyed, all- 
seeing guard who was slain by Hermes and changed into the 
peacock, for Macrobius writes as recognizing in him the star- 
eyed heaven itself ; ^ even as the Aryan Indra, the Sky, is the 
"thousand-eyed" (sahasrdksha, sahasranayana). In modern 
times the thought is found surviving or reviving in a strange 
region of language : whoever it was that brought argo as a word 
for ''heaven" into the Lingua Furbesca or Robbers* Jargon of 
Italy,^ must have been thinking of the starry sky watching him 
like Argus with his hundred eyes. The etymology of names, 
moreover, is at once the guide and safeguard of the mythologist. 
The obvious meaning of words did much to preserve vestiges of 
plain sense in classic legend, in spite of all the efforts of the 
commentators. There was no disputing the obvious facts that 
Helios was the Sun, and Selene the Moon ; and as for Jove, all 
the nonsense of pseudo-history could not quite do away the idea 
that he was really Heaven, for language continued to declare 
this in such expressions as " sub Jove frigido." The explanation 
of the rape of Persephone, as a nature-myth of summer and 
winter, does not depend alone on analogy of incident, but has 
the very names to prove its reality, Zeus, Helios, Demeter — 
Heaven, and Sun, and Mother Earth. Lastly, in stories of mythic 
beings who are the presiding genii of star or mountain, tree 
or river, or heroes and heroines actually metamorphosed into such 

1 Macrob. 'Saturn.' i. 19, 12. See Eurip. Phoen. 1116, etc. and Schol. ; 
Welcker, vol. i. p. 336 ; Max Miiller, 'Lectures,' vol. ii. p. 380. 
- Francisque-Michel, * Argot, 'p. 425. 

VOL. I. V 


objects, personification of nature is still plainly evident; the 
poet may still as of old see Atlas bear the heavens on his 
mighty shoulders, and Alpheus in impetuous course pursue the 
maiden Arethusa. 

In a study of the nature-myths of the world, it is hardly 
practicable to start from the conceptions of the very lowest 
human tribes, and to work upwards from thence to fictions of 
higher growth ; partly because our information is but meagre as 
to the beliefs of these shy and seldom quite intelligible folk, 
and partly because the legends they possess have not reached 
that artistic and systematic shape which they attain to among 
races next higher in the scale. It therefore answers better to 
take as a foundation the mythology of the North American 
Indians, the South Sea islanders, and other high savage tribes 
who best represent in modern times the early mythologic 
period of human history. The survey may be fitly commenced 
by a singularly perfect and purposeful cosmic myth from New 

It seems long ago and often to have come into men's minds, 
that the overarching Heaven and the all-producing Earth are, as 
it were, a Father and a Mother of the world, whose otfspring 
are the living creatures, men, and beasts, and plants. Nowhere, 
in the telling of this oft-told tale, is present nature veiled in 
more transparent personification, nowhere is the world's fami- 
liar daily life repeated with more childlike simplicity as a story 
of long past ages, than in the legend of ' The Children of 
Heaven and Earth,' written down by Sir George Grey among 
the Maoris not twenty years ago. From Kangi, the Heaven, 
and Pa23a, the Earth, it is said, sprang all men and things, but 
sky and earth clave together, and darkness rested upon them 
and the beings they had begotten, till at last their children 
took counsel whether they should rend apart their parents, or 
slay them. Then Tane-mahuta, father of forests, said to his 
five great brethren, " It is better to rend them apart, and to let 
the heaven stand far above us, and the earth lie under our feet. 
Let the sky become as a stranger to us, but the earth remain 
close to us as our nursing mother." So Rongo-ma-tane, god 
and father of the cultivated food of man, arose and strove to 

MYTHOLOGY. ^ 2.91 

separate the heaven and the earth ; he struggled, but in vain, 
and vain too were tlie efforts of Tangaroa, father of fish and 
reptiles, and of Haumia-tikitiki, father of wild-growing food, 
and of Tu-mataueno'a, srod and father of fierce men. Then slow 
uprises Tane-mahuta, god and father of forests, and wrestles 
with his parents, striving to part them with his hands and 
arms. " Lo, he pauses ; his head is now firmly planted on his 
mother the earth, his feet he raises up and rests against his 
father the skies, he strains his back and limbs with mighty 
effort. Now are rent apart Kangi and Papa, and with cries 
and groans of woe they shriek aloud .... But Tane-mahuta 
pauses not ; far, far beneath him he presses down the earth ; 
far, far above him he thrusts up the sky." But Tawhiri-ma-tea, 
father of winds and storms, had never consented that his mother 
should be torn from her lord, and now there arose in his breast 
a fierce desire to war against his brethren. So the Storm-god 
rose and followed his father to the realms above, hurrying to 
the sheltered hollows of the boundless skies, to hide and cling 
and nestle there. Then came forth his progeny, the mighty 
winds, the fierce squalls, the clouds, dense, dark, fiery, wildly 
drifting, wildly bursting ; and in their midst their father rushed 
upon his foe. Tane-mahuta and his giant forests stood uncon- 
scious and unsuspecting when the raging hurricane burst on 
them, snapping the mighty trees across, leaving trunks and 
branches rent and torn upon the ground for the insect and the 
grub to prey on. Then the father of storms swooped down to 
lash the waters into billows whose summits rose like cliffs, till 
Tangaroa, god of ocean and father of all that dwell therein, 
fled affrighted through his seas. His children, Ika-tere, the 
father of fish, and Tu-te-wehiwehi, the father of reptiles, sought 
where they might escape for safety; the father of fish cried, 
" Ho, ho, let us all escape to the sea," but the father of reptiles 
shouted in answer, " Nay, nay, let us rather fly inland," and so 
these creatures separated, for while the fish fled into the sea, 
the reptiles sought safety in the forests and scrubs. But the 
sea-god Tangaroa, furious that his children the reptiles should 
have deserted him, ha.s ever since waged war on his brother 
Tane who gave them shelter in his woods. Tane attacks him 

u 2 


in return, supplying the offspring of his brother Tu-matauenga,, 
father of fierce men, with canoes and spears and fish-hooks 
made from his trees, and with nets woven from his fibrous 
plants, that they may destroy withal the fish, the Sea-god'& 
children ; and the Sea-god turns in wrath upon the Forest-god, 
overwhelms his canoes with the surges of the sea, sweeps with 
floods his trees and houses into the boundless ocean. Next the 
god of storms pushed on to attack his brothers the gods and 
progenitors of the tilled food and the wild, but Papa, the Earth, 
caught them up and hid them, and so safely were these her 
children concealed by their mother, that the Storm-god sought 
for them in vain. So he fell upon the last of his brothers, the 
father of fierce men, but him he could not even shake, though 
he put forth all his strength. What cared Tu-matauenga for 
his brother's wrath ? He it was who had planned the destruction 
of their parents, and had shown himself brave and fierce in war;, 
his brethren had yielded before the tremendous onset of the 
Storm-god and his progeny ; the Forest-god and his offspring had 
been broken and torn in pieces ; the Sea-god and his children 
had fled to the depths of the ocean or the recesses of the shore ; 
the gods of food had been safe in hiding ; but Man still stood 
erect and unshaken upon the bosom of his mother Earth, and 
at last the hearts of the Heaven and the Storm became tran- 
quil, and their passion was assuaged. 

But now Tu-matauenga, father of fierce men, took thought 
how he might be avenged upon his brethren who had left him 
unaided to stand against the god of storms. He twisted nooses 
of the leaves of the whanake tree, and the birds and beasts, 
children of Tane the Forest-god, fell before him; he netted nets 
from the flax-plant, and dragged ashore the fish, the children of 
Tangaroa the Sea-god ; he found in their hiding-place under- 
ground the children of Rongo-ma-tane, the sweet potato and 
all cultivated food, and the children of Haumia-tikitiki, the 
fern-root and all wild-growing food, he dug them up and let 
them wither in the sun. Yet, though he overcame his four 
brothers, and they became his food, over the fifth he could not 
prevail, and Tawhiri-ma-tea, the Storm-god, still ever attacks 
him in tempest and hurricane, striving to destroy him both by 


sea and land. It was the bursting forth of the Storm-god's 
wrath against his brethren that caused the dry land to disappear 
beneath the waters : the beings of ancient days who thus sub- 
merged the land were Terrible-rain, Long-continued-rain, 
Fierce-hailstorms ; and their progeny were Mist, and Heavy- 
dew, and Light-dew, and thus but little of the dry land was 
left standing above the sea. Then clear light increased in the 
world, and the beings who had been hidden between Rangi and 
Papa before they were parted, now multiplied upon the earth. 
" Up to this time the vast Heaven has still ever remained 
separated from his spouse the Earth. Yet their mutual love 
still continues ; the soft warm sighs of her loving bosom still 
ever rise up to him, ascending from the woody mountains and 
valleys, and men call these mists ; and the vast Heaven, as he 
mourns through the long nights his separation from his beloved, 
drops frequent tears upon her bosom, and men seeing these 
term them dew-drops." ^ 

The rending asunder of heaven and earth is a far-spread 
Polynesian legend, well known in the island groups that lie 
away to the north-east.^ Its elaboration, however, into the 
myth here sketched out was probably native New Zealand 
work. Nor need it be supposed that the particular form in 
which the English governor took it down among the Maori 
priests and tale-tellers, is of ancient date. The story carries in 
itself evidence of an antiquity of character VN^hich does not 
necessarily belong to mere lapse of centuries. Just as the 
adzes of polished jade and the cloaks of tied flax-fibre, which 
these New Zealanders were using but yesterday, are older in 
their place in history than the bronze battle-axes and linen 
mummy-cloths of ancient Egypt, so the Maori poet's shaping of 
nature into nature-myth belongs to a stage of intellectual 
history which was passing away in Greece five-and-twenty cen- 

* Sir G. Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' p. i. etc., translated from the original 
]Maori text published by him nnder the title * Ko nga Mahinga a nga Tupuna 
I^Iaori, etc' London 1854. Compare with Shorthand, * Trads. of N. Z.'p. 55, 
etc. ; R. Taylor, ' New Zealand,' p. 114, etc. 

• Schirren, 'Wandersagen der Neuseeliinder, etc' p. 42; Ellis, ' Polyn. Res.' 
vol. i. p. 116 ; Tyerman and Bennet, p. 526 ; Turner, * Polynesia,' p. 245. 


turics ago. The myth-maker's fancy of Heaven and Earth as 
father and mother of all things naturally suggested the legend 
that they in old days abode together, but have since been torn 
asunder. In China the same idea of the universal parentage is 
accompanied by a similar legend of the separation. Whether 
or not there is historical connexion here between the mytho- 
logy of Polynesia and China, I will not guess, but certainly the 
ancient Chinese legend of the separation of heaven and earth 
in the primseval days of Puang-Ku seems to have taken the 
very shape of the Polynesian myth : " Some say a person 
called Puang-Ku opened or separated the heavens and the 
earth, they previously being pressed down close together." ^ 
As to the mythic details in the whole story of ' The Children 
of Heaven and Earth,' there is scarcely a thought that is not 
still transparent, scarcely even a word that has lost its meaning 
to us. The broken and stiffened traditions which our fathers 
fancied relics of ancient history are, as has been truly said, 
records of a past which was never present ; but the simple 
nature-myth, as we find it in its actual growth, or reconstruct 
it from its legendary remnants, may be rather called the record 
of a present Avhich is never past. The battle of the storm 
agfainst the forest and the ocean is still wao-ed before our 
eyes ; we still look upon the victory of man over the creatures 
of the land and sea ; the food-plants still hide in their mother 
earth, and the fish and reptiles find shelter in the ocean and 
the thicket ; but the mighty forest-trees stand with their roots 
firm planted in the ground, while with their branches they 
push up and up against the sky. And if we have learnt the 
secret of man's thought in the childhood of his race, we may 
still realize with the savage the personal being of the ancestral 
Heaven and Earth. 

The idea of the Earth as a mother is more simple and 
obvious, and no. doubt for that reason more common in the 
world, than the idea of the Heaven as a father. Among the 
native races of America the Earth-mother is one of the great 

J Premare in Pauthier, 'Livres Sacres de T Orient,' j). 19 ; Doolittle, 'Chinese^' 
vol. ii. p. 396. 


personages of mythology. The Peruvians worshipped her as 
Mama-Ppacha or " Mother-Earth ; " the Caribs, when there 
was an earthquake, said it was their mother Earth dancing, 
and signifying to them to dance and make merry likewise, 
which accordingly they did. Among the North- American In- 
dians the Comanches ca.ll on the Earth as their mother, and 
the Great Spirit as their father. A story told by Gregg shows 
a somewhat different thought of mythic parentage. General 
Harrison once called the Shawnee chief Tecumseh for a talk : — 
" Come here, Tecumseh, and sit by your father ! " he said. 
"Yon my father ! " replied the chief, with a stern air. " No ! 
yonder sun (pointing towards it) is my father, and the earth 
is my mother, so I will rest on her bosom," and he sat down on 
the ground. Like this was the Aztec fancy, as it seems from 
this passage in a Mexican prayer to Tezcatlipoca, offered in 
time of war : " Be pleased, our Lord, that the nobles who 
shall die in the war be peacefully and joyously received by the 
Sun and the Earth, who are the loving father and mother of 
all." ^ In the mythology of Finns, Lapps, and Esths, Earth - 
Mother is a divinely honoured personage." ^ Through the 
mythology of our own country the same thought may be traced, 
from the days when the Anglo-Saxon called upon the Earth, 
" Hal wes thu folde, fira modor," " Hail thou Earth, men's 
mother," to the time when mediaeval Englishmen made a riddle 
of her, asking "Who is Adam's mother?" and poetry con- 
tinued what mythology was letting fall, when Milton's arch- 
angel promised Adam a life to last 

" . . . . till, like ripe fruit, thou drop 
Into thy mother's lap."^ 

Among the Aryan race, indeed, there stands, wide and firm, the 
double myth of the "two great parents," as the Rig- Veda 

1 J. G. Miiller, 'Amer. Urrelig.' pp. 108, 110, 117, 221, 369, 494, 620; Rivero 
and Tschudi, 'Ant. of Peru,' p. 161 ; Gregfij, 'Journal of a Santa Fe Trader,' 
vol. ii. p. 237; Sahagun, ' Eetorica, etc., Mexicana,' cap. 3, in Kingsborough, 
'Ant. of Mexico,' vol. v. 

2 Castren, ' Finn. Myth.' p. 86. 

3 Grimm, 'D. M.' p. xix. 229-33, 608 ; Hallivvell, 'Pop. Rhymes,' p. 153 ; 
Milton, ' Paradise Lost,' ix. 273, xi. 535 ; see Lucretius, i. 250. 


calls them. They are DyausJipitar, Zev? 7rar?/p, Jupiter , the 
"Heaven-father/ saidPrthivi rndtaVj the "Earth-mother;" and 
their relation is still kept in mind in the ordinance of Brahman 
marriage according to the Yajur-Yeda, where the bridegroom 
says to the bride, " I am the sky, thou art the earth, come let 
us marry." When Greek poets called Ouranos and Gaia, or 
Zeus and Demeter, husband and wife, what they meant was the 
union of Heaven and Earth ; and when Plato said that the 
earth brought forth men, but God was their shaper, the same 
old mythic thought must have been present to his mind.^ It 
re-appears in ancient Scythia ; ^ and again in China, where 
Heaven and Earth are called in the Shu- King " Father and 
Mother of all things." Chinese philosophy naturally w^orked 
this idea into the scheme of the two great principles of nature, 
the Yn and Yang, male and female, heavenly and earthly, and 
from this disposition of nature they drew a practical moral 
lesson : Heaven, said the philosophers of the Sung dynasty, 
made man, and Earth made woman, and therefore woman is to 
be subject to man as Earth to Heaven.^ 

Entering next upon the world-wide myths of Sun, Moon, and 
Stars, the regularity and consistency of human imagination may 
be first displayed in the beliefs connected with eclipses. It is 
well known that these phenomena, to us now crucial instances 
of the exactness of natural laws, are, throughout the lower 
stages of civilization, the very embodiment of miraculous dis- 
aster. Among the native races of America it is possible to 
select a typical series of myths describing and explaining, 
according to the rules of savage philosophy, these portents of 
dismay. The Chiquitos of the southern continent thought the 
Moon was hunted across the sky by huge dogs, who caught and 
tore her till her light was reddened and quenched by the blood 
flowing from her wounds, and then the Indians, raising a fright- 
ful howl and lamentation, would shoot across into the sky to 

^ Max Miiller, * Lectures,' 2nd series, p. 459 ; Pictet, * Origines Indo-Europ.' 
part ii. pp. 663-7 ; Colebrooke, ' Essays,' vol. i. p. 220. 

2 Herod, iv. 59. 

3 Plath, 'Religion der alten Cliinesen,' part. i. p. 37; Davis, 'Chinese,' 
vol. ii. p. 64; Legge, 'Confucius,' p. 106; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 437; 
vol. iii. p. 302. 


drive the monsters off. The Caribs, thinking that the demon 
Maboya, hater of all light, was seeking to devour the Sun and 
Moon, would dance and howl in concert all night long to scare 
him away. The Peruvians, imagining such an evil spirit in the 
shape of a monstrous beast, raised the like frightful din when 
the Moon was eclipsed, shouting, sounding musical instruments, 
and beating the dogs to join their howls to the hideous chorus. 
Nor are such ideas extinct in our own days. In the Tupi 
language, the proper description of a solar eclipse is " oarasu 
jaguarete vu," that is, " Jaguar has eaten Sun ; " and the full 
meaning of this phrase is displayed by tribes who still shout 
and let fly burning arrows to drive the devouring beast from his 
prey. On the northern continent, again, some savages believed 
in a great sun-swallowing dog, while others Avould shoot up 
arrows to defend their luminaries against the enemies they 
fancied attacking them. By the side of these prevalent notions 
there occur, however, various others ; thus the Caribs could 
imagine the eclipsed Moon hungry, sick, or dying ; the Peru- 
vians could fancy the Sun angry and hiding his face, and the 
sick Moon likely to fall in total darkness, and bring on the end 
of the world ; the Hurons thought the Moon sick, and explained 
their customary charivari of shouting men and howling dogs as 
performed to recover her from her complaint. Passing on from 
these most primitive conceptions, it appears that natives of 
both South and North America fell upon philosophic myths 
somewhat nearer the real facts of the case, insomuch as they 
admit that Sun and Moon cause eclipses of one another. In 
Cumana, men thought that the wedded Sun and Moon quar- 
relled, and that one of them was Avounded ; and the Ojibwas 
endeavoured by tumultuous noise to distract the two from such 
a conflict. The course of progressive science went far beyond 
this among the Aztecs, w^ho, as part of their remarkable astro- 
nomical knowledge, seem to have had an idea of the real cause 
of eclipses, but who kept up a relic of the old belief by con- 
tinuing to speak in mythologic phrase of the Sun and Moon 
being eaten.^ Elsewhere in the lower culture, there prevailed 

1 J. G. Miillcr, ' Amer. Urrelig,' pp. .^3, 219, 231, 255, 395, 420; Martins, 


similar mythic conceptions. In the South Sea Islands, some sup- 
posed the Sun and Moon to be swallowed by an offended deity, 
whom they therefore induced, by liberal offerings, to eject the 
luminaries from his stomach.^ In Sumatra we have the com- 
paratively scientific notion that an eclipse has to do with the 
action of Sun and Moon on one another, and, accordingly, they 
make a loud noise with sounding instruments to prevent the 
one from devouring the other.^ So, in Africa, there may be 
found both the rudest theory of the EclijDse-monster, and the 
more advanced conception that a solar eclipse is "the Moon 
catching the Sun." ^ 

It is no cause for wonder that an aspect of the heavens so 
awful as an eclipse should in times of astronomic ignorance 
have filled men's minds with terror of a coming destruction of 
the world. It may help us still to realize this thought if we 
consider how, as Calmet pointed out many years ago, the 
prophet Joel adopted the plainest words of description of the 
solar and lunar ecli]3se, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, 
and the moon into blood ; " nor could the thought of any 
catastrophe of nature have brought his hearers face to face 
with a more lurid and awful picture. But to our minds, now 
that the eclipse has long passed from the realm of mythology 
into the realm of science, such words can carry but a feeble 
glimmer of their early meaning. The ancient doctrine of the 
eclipse has not indeed lost its whole interest. To trace it up- 
ward from its early savage stages to the period when astronomy 
claimed it, and to follow the course of the ensuing conflict over 
it between theology and science — ended among ourselves but 
still being sluggishly fought out among less cultured nations — 

'Etlmog. Amer.' vol i. pp. 329, 467, 585; vol. ii. p. 109; Soutliey, 'Brazil,^ 
vol. i. p. 352 ; vol. ii. p. 371 ; De la Borde, ' Caraibes,' p. 525 ; Dobrizhoffer, 
'Abipones,' vol. ii. p. 84; Smith and Lowe, 'Journey from Lima to Para,^ 
p. 230 ; Sclioolcraft, 'Indian Tribes of K A.' part i. p. 271 ; Cliarlevoix, 'Nouv. 
France,' vol. vi. p. 149 ; Cranz, ' Gronland,' p. 295 ; Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. iii. 
p. 191 ; 'Early Hist, of Mankind,' p. 163. 

1 Ellis, 'Polj-n. Ees.' vol. i. p. 331. 

- Marsden, 'Sumatra,' p. 194. 

3 Grant in * Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 90; Koelle, ' Kanuri Proverbs, etc.* 
p. 207. 


this is to lay open a chapter of the history of opinion, from 
which the student who looks forward as well as back may learn 
grave lessons. 

There is reason to consider most or all civilized nations to 
have started from the myth of the Eclipse-monster in forms as 
savage as those of the New World. It prevails still among the 
great Asiatic nations. The Hindus say that the demon E-ahu 
insinuated himself among the gods, and obtained a portion of 
the amrita, the drink of immortality; Vishnu smote off the 
now immortal head, which still pursues the Sun and Moon 
whose watchful gaze detected his presence in the divine as- 
sembl}^ Another version of the myth is that there are two 
demons, Rahu and Ketu, who devour Sun and Moon respec- 
tively, and who are described in conformity with the pheno- 
mena of eclipses, Rahu being black, and Ketu red ; the usual 
charivari is raised by the populace to drive them off, though 
indeed, as their bodies have been cut off at the neck, their 
prey must of natural course slip out as soon as swallowed. Or 
Rahu and Ketu are the head and body of the dissevered demon, 
by which conception the EclijDse-monster is most ingeniously 
adapted to advanced astronomy, the head and tail being iden- 
tified with the ascendino^ and descendinoc node. The followinsf 
remarks on the eclipse-controversy, made by Mr. Samuel Davis 
eighty years ago in the Asiatick Researches, are still full of 
interest. " It is evident, from what has been explained, that 
the Pundits, learned in the Jyotish shastru, have truer notions 
of the form of the earth and the economy of the universe than 
are ascribed to the Hindoos in general : and that they must 
reject the ridiculous belief of the common Brahmuns, that 
eclipses are occasioned by the intervention of the monster 
Rahoo, with many other particulars equally unscientific and 
absurd. But as this belief is founded on explicit and positive 
declarations contained in the vedus and poorantis, the divine 
authority of which writings no devout Hindoo can dispute, the 
astronomers have some of them cautiously explained such pas- 
sages in those writings as disagree with the principles of their 
own science : and where reconciliation was impossible, have 
apologized, as well as they could, for propositions necessarily 


established in the practice of it, by observing, that certain 
things, as stated in other shastrus, might have been so formerlj^ 
and may be so still ; but for astronomical purposes, astronomical 
rules must be followed."^ It is not easy to give a more salient 
example than this of the consequence of investing philosophy 
with the mantle of religion, and allowing priests and scribes to 
convert the childlike science of an early age into the sacred 
dogma of a late one. Asiatic peoples under Buddhist influence 
show the eclipse-myth in its different stages. The rude Mon- 
gols make a clamour of rough music to drive the attacking 
Aracho (Rahu) from Sun or Moon. A Buddhist version men- 
tioned by Dr. Bastian describes Indra the Heaven-god pursuing 
Rahu with his thunderbolt, and ripping open his belly, so that 
although he can swallow the heavenly bodies, he lets them slip 
out again.^ The more civilized nations of South-East Asia, 
accepting the eclipse-demons Rahu and Ketu, were not quite 
staggered in their belief by the foreigners' power of foretelling 
eclipses, nor even by learning roughly to do the same them- 
selves. The Chinese have official announcement of an eclipse 
duly made beforehand, and then proceed to encounter the 
ominous monster, when he comes, with gongs and bells and the 
regula^rly appointed prayers. Travellers of a century or two ago 
relate curious details of such combined belief in the dracjon and 
the almanac, culminating in an ingenious argument to account 
for the accuracy of the Europeans' predictions. These clever 
people, the Siamese said, know the monster's mealtimes, and 
can tell how hungry he will be, that is, how large an eclipse will 
be required to satisfy him.^ 

In Europe popular mythology kept up ideas, either of a fight 
of sun or moon with celestial enemies, or of the moon's fainting 
or sickness ; and especially remnants of such archaic belief 

^ H. H, Wilson, ' Vislmupurana,' pp. 78, 140 ; Skr. Die. s. v. rahu; Sir W. 
Jones in 'As. Res.' vol. ii. p. 290 ; S. Davis, ibid., p. 258 ; Pictet, ' Origines 
Indo-Europ.' part. ii. p. 584 ; Roberts, ' Oriental Illustrations,' p. 7 ; Hardy, 
* Manual of Buddhism.' 

" Castren, 'Finn. Myth.' p. 63; Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 344. 

^ Klemm, * C. G.' vol. vi. p. 449 ; Doolittle, * Chinese,' vol. i. p. 308 ; Turpin, 
Richard, and Borri in Pinkerton, vol. iv. pp. 579, 725, 815; Bastian, * Oestl. 
Asien,' vol. ii. p. 109 ; vol. iii. p. 242. See Eiscnmengcr, 'Entdccktes Judenthum,' 
vol. i. p. 398 (Talmudic myth). 


are manifested in the tumultuoUvS clamour raised in defence or 
encouragement of the afflicted luminary. The Romans flung 
firebrands into the air, and blew trumpets, and clanged brazen 
pots and pans, " laboranti succurrere lunse." Tacitus, relating 
the story of the conspirators against Tiberius, tells how their 
plans Avere frustrated by the moon suddenly languishing in a 
clear sky (luna claro repente coelo visa languescere) ; in vain by 
clang of brass and blast of trumpet they strove to drive away 
the darkness, for clouds came up and covered all, and the 
plotters saw, lamenting, that the gods turned away from their 
crime. ^ In the period of the conversion of Europe, Christian 
teachers began to attack the .pagan superstition, and to urge 
that men should no longer clamour and cry " vince luna ! " to 
aid the moon in her sore danger ; and at last there came a time 
when the picture of the sun or moon in the dragon's mouth 
became a mere old-fashioned symbol to represent eclipses 
in the calendar, and the saying, "Dieu garde la lune des 
loups " passed into a mocking proverb against fear of remote 
danger. Yet the ceremonial charivari is mentioned in our 
own country in the seventeenth century : " The Irish or Welsh 
during eclipses run about beating kettles and pans, thinking 
their clamour and vexations available to the assistance of the 
higher orbes." In 1654, Nuremberg went wild with terror of 
an impending solar eclipse ; the markets ceased, the churches 
were crowded with penitents, and a record of the event re- 
mains in the printed thanksgiving which was issued (Danck- 
gebeth nach vergangener hochstbedrohlich und hochschadlicher 
Sonnenfinsternuss), which gives thanks to the Almighty for 
granting to poor terrified sinners the grace of covering the sky 
with clouds, and sparing them the sight of the awful sign in 
heaven. In our own time, a writer on French folklore was sur- 
prised during a lunar eclipse to hear sighs and exclamations, 
" Mon Dieu, qu'elle est soutfrante ! " and found on inquiry that 
the poor moon was believed to be the prey of some invisible 
monster seeking to devour her.^ No doubt such late survivals 

^ Plutarch. De Facie in Orbe Liinse ; Juvenal, Sat. vi. 441 ; Plin. ii. 9 ; Tacit. 
Annal. i. 28. 
2 Grimm, 'D. M.,' 668-78, 224 ; Hanusch, 'Slav. Myth.' p. 268 ; Brand, 'Pop. 



have belonged in great measure to the ignorant crowd, for the 
educated classes of the West have never suffered in its ex- 
treme the fatal Chinese union of scepticism and superstition. 
Yet if it is our mood to bewail the slowness with which know- 
ledge penetrates the mass of ma,nkind, there stand dismal 
proofs before us here. The eclipse remained an omen of fear 
almost up to our own century, and could rout a horror-stricken 
army, and fill Europe with dismay, a thousand years after Pliny 
had written in memorable words his eulogy of the astronomers ; 
those great men, he said, and above ordinary mortals, who, by 
discovering the laws of the heavenly bodies, had freed the miser- 
able mind of men from terror at the portents of eclipses. 

Day is daily sv/allowed up by Night, to be set free again at 
dawn, and from time to time suffers a like but shorter durance 
in the maw of the Eclipse and the Storm-cloud; Summer is over- 
come and prisoned by dark Winter, to be again set free. It is a 
plausible opinion that such scenes from the great nature-drama 
of the conflict of light and darkness are, generally speaking, 
the simple facts, which in many lands and ages have been told 
in mythic shape, as legends of a Hero or Maiden devoured by a 
Monster, and hacked out again or disgorged. The myths just 
displayed show with absolute distinctness, that myth can de- 
scribe eclipse as the devouring and setting free of the personal 
sun and moon by a monster. The following Maori legend will 
supply proof as positive that the episode of the Sun's or the 
Day's death in sunset may be dramatized into a tale of a per- 
sonal solar hero plunging into the body of the personal Night. 

Maui, the New Zealand cosmic hero, at the end of his glo- 
rious career came back to his father's country, and was told 
that here, perhaps, he might be overcome, for here dwelt his 
mighty ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, Great- Woman-Night, whom 
" you may see flashing, and as it were opening and shutting 
there, where the horizon meets the sky ; what you see yonder 
shining so brightly-red, are her eyes, and her teeth are as sharp 

Ant.' vol. iii. p. 152; Horst, 'Zauber-Bibliothek,' vol. iv. p. 350; D. Monnier, 
'Traditions populaires comparees,' p. 138 ; see Migne, 'Die. des Superstitions,' 
art. 'Eclipse;' Cornelius Agrippa, ' De Occulta Pliilosophia,' ii. c. 45, gives a 
|)icture of the lunar eclipse-dragon. 


and hard as pieces of volcanic glass ; her body is like that of 
a man ; and as for the pupils of her eyes, they are jasper ; 
and her hair is like the tangles of long sea-weed, and her 
mouth is like that of a barracouta." Maui boasted of his 
former exploits, and said, " Let us fearlessly seek whether men 
are to die or live for ever; " but his father called to mind an 
-evil omen, that when he was baptizing Maui he had left out 
part of the fitting prayers, and therefore he knew that his son 
must perish. Yet he said, " 0, my last-born, and the strength 
of my old age, ... be bold, go and visit your great ances- 
tress, who flashes so fiercely there where the edge of the 
horizon meets the sky." Then the birds came to Maui to be 
his companions in the enterprise, and it was evening when 
they went with him, and they came to the dwelling of Hine- 
nui-te-po, and found her fast asleep. Maui charged the birds not 
to laugh when they saw him creep into the old chieftainess, but 
when he had got altogether inside her, and was coming out of her 
mouth, then they might laugh long and loud. So Maui stripped 
off his clothes, and the skin on his hips, tatooed by the chisel of 
XJetonga, looked mottled and beautiful, like a mackerel's, as he 
crept in. The birds kept silence, but when he was in up to 
the waist, the little tiw^akawaka could hold its laughter in no 
longer, and burst out loud wdth its merry note ; then Maui's 
ancestress awoke, closed on him and caught him tight, and he 
was killed. Thus died Maui, and thus death came into the world, 
for Hine-nui-te-po is the goddess both of night and death, and 
had Maui entered into her body and passed safely through 
her, men would have died no more. The New Zealanders 
hold that the Sun descends at night into his cavern, bathes in 
the Wai Ora Tane, the Water of Life, and returns at dawn 
from the under-world ; hence we may interpret their thought 
that if Man could likewise descend into Hades and return, 
his race would be immortal.^ It is seldom that solar charac- 

^ Grey, *Polyn. Myth.' p. 54—53 ; in his editions of the Maori text, Ko iiga 
Mahinga, pp. 28-30, Ko nga Mateatea, pp. xlviii-ix. I have to thank Sir G. 
Grey for a more explicit and mytliologically more consistent translation of the 
stoiy of Maui's entrance into tlie womb of Hine-nui-te-po and her crushing him 
to death between her thighs, than is given in his English version. Compare 
H. Taylor, 'New Zealand,' p. 132 ; Scliirren, * Wandcrsagen dcr Ncusccl.' p. 33 ; 


teristics are more distinctly marked in the several details of a 
myth than they are here. Hine-nui-te-po, Great- Woman- 
Night, who dwells on the horizon, is the New Zealand Hades, 
or goddess of Hades. The birds are to keep silence as the 
Sun enters the Night, but may sing when he comes forth from 
her mouth, the mouth of Hades. Lastly, I have been able to 
use an unexceptionable means of testing whether the legend is 
or is not a real sun-myth. If it is so, then the tiwakawaJca 
(also called the lyiwakawaha) ought to be a bird that sings at 
sunset. I have had inquiry made in New Zealand to ascertain 
whether this is the case, and have received a perfect confir- 
mation of the interpretation of the legend of the death of 
Maui, as being a nature-myth of the setting sun ; the reply is 
that the name "describes the cry of the bird, which is only 
heard at sunset." 

In the list of myths of engulphing monsters, there are some 
which seem to display, with a clearness almost approaching 
this, an origin suggested by the familiar spectacle of Day and 
Night, or Light and Darkness. The simple story of the Day 
may well be told in the Karen tale of Ta Ywa, who was born a 
tiny child, and went to the Sun to make him grow ; the Sun 
tried in vain to destroy him by rain and heat, and then blew 
him up large till his head touched the sky ; then he went forth 
and travelled from his home far over the earth ; and among the 
adventures which befel him was this — a snake swallowed him, 
but they ripped the creature up, and Ta Ywa came back to life,^ 
like the Sun from the ripped up serpent-demon in the Buddhist 
eclipse-myth. In North American Indian mythology, a prin- 
cipal personage is Manabozho, an Algonquin hero or deity 
whose solar character is well brought into view in an Ottawa 
myth which tells us that Manabozho (whom it calls Na-na-bou- 
jou) is the elder brother of Ning-gah-be-ar-nong Manito, 
the Spirit of the West, god of the country of the dead in 
the region of the setting sun. Manabozho's solar nature is 
again revealed in the story of his driving the West, his father, 

Sliortland, ' Trads. of N. Z.' p. 63 (a curious version of the myth of Maui's death); 
see also pp. 171, 180, and Baker in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. p. 53. 
1 Mason, Karens in ' Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1865, dart ii. p. 178, etc. 


across mountain and lake to the brink of the world, thoueh 
he cannot kill him. This sun-hero Manabozho, when he 
angled for the King of Fishes, was swallowed, canoe and all ; 
then he smote the monster's heart with his war-club till he 
would fain have cast him up into the lake again, but the 
hero set his canoe fast across the fish's throat inside, and 
finished slaying him ; when the dead monster drifted ashore, 
the guJls jDocked an opening for Manabozho to come out. This 
is a story familiar to English readers from its introduction 
into the poem of Hiawatha. In another version, the tale is told 
of the Little Monedo of the Ojibwas, who also corresponds with 
the New Zealand Maui in being the Sun-Catcher ; among his 
various prodigies, he is swallowed by the great fish, and cut out 
again by his sister.^ South Africa is a region where there pre- 
vail myths which seem to tell the story of the world imprisoned 
in the monster Night, and delivered by the dawning Sun. The 
Basutos have their myth of the hero Litaolane; he came to man's 
stature and wisdom at his birth ; all mankind save his mother and 
he had been devoured by a monster ; he attacked the creature 
and was swallowed whole, but cutting his way out he set free all 
the inhabitants of the world. The Zulus tell stories as pointedly 
suggestive. A mother follows her children into the maw of the 
great elephant, and finds forests and rivers and highlands, and 
dogs and cattle, and people who had built their villages there ; 
a description Y\diich is simply that of the Zulu Hades. When 
the Princess Untombinde was carried off by the Isikqukquma- 
devu, the ''bloated, squatting, bearded monster," the King 
gathered his army and attacked it, but it swallowed up men, 
and dogs, and cattle, all but one warrior ; he slew the monster, 
and there came out cattle, and horses, and men, and last of all 
the princess herself The stories of these monsters being cut 
open imitate, in graphic savage fashion, the cries of the impri- 
soned creatures as they come back from darkness into day- 
light. " There came out first a fowl, it said, ' Kukuluku ! I see 
the world ! ' For, for a long time it had been without seeing 

1 Sclioolcicaft, 'Indian Tribes,' partiii. p. 318 ; 'Algic Res.' vol. i. p. 135, etc., 
144 ; John Tanner, 'Narrative,' p. 357 ; see Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' 
p. 166. For legends of Sun-Catcher, see ' Early History of Mankind,' ch. xii. 

VOL. I. X 


it. After the fowl there came out a man, he said ' Hau \ I at 
length see the world ! ' " and so on with the rest.^ 

The well-known modern interpretation of the myth of Perseus 
and Andromeda, or of Herakles and Hesione, as a description 
of the Sun slaying the Darkness, has its connexion with this 
group of legends. It is related in a remarkable version of this 
story, that when the Trojan King Laomedon had bound his 
daughter Hesione to the rock, a sacrifice to Poseidon's destroy- 
ing sea-monster, Herakles delivered the maiden, springing full- 
armed into the fish's gaping throat, and coming forth hairless 
after three days hacking within. This singular story, probably 
in part of Semitic origin, combines the ordinary myth of 
Hesione or Andromeda with the story of Jonah's fish, for which 
indeed the Greek sculpture of Andromeda's monster served as 
the model in early Christian art, while Joppa was the place 
where vestiges of Andromeda's chains on a rock in front of the 
town were exhibited in Pliny's time, and whence the bones of 
a whale were carried to Rome as relics of Andromeda's monster. 
To recognize the place which the nature-myth of the Man swal- 
low^ed by the Monster occupies in mythology, among remote and 
savage races and onward among the higher nations, affects the 
argument on a point of Biblical criticism. It strengthens the 
position of the critics who, seeing that the Book of Jonah con- 
sists of two wonder-episodes adapted to enforce two great reli- 
gious lessons, no longer suppose intention of literal narrative in 
what they may fairly consider as the most elaborate parable of 
the Old Testament. Had the Book of Jonah happened to be 
lost in old times, and only recently recovered, it is indeed hardly 
likely that any other opinion of it than this would find accept- 
ance among scholars.^ 

* Casalis, *Basutos,' p. 347; Callaway, 'Zulu Tales,' vol. i. pp. 56, 69, 84, 
334 (see also the story p. 241 of the frog who swallowed the princess and carried 
her safe home). See Cranz, p. 271 (Greenland angekok swallowed by bear and 
■walrus and thrown up again), and Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. pp. 506-7 ; J. M. 
Harris in 'Mem. Anthop. Soc' vol. ii. p. 31 (similar notions in Africa and New 

- Tzetzes ap. Lycophron. Cassandra, 33. As to connexion with Jo])pa and 
Phcenicia, see Plin. v. 14 ; ix. 4 ; Mela, i. 11 ; Strabo, xvi. 2, 28 ; Movers, 
Phonizier, vol. i. pp. 422-3. The expression in Jonah ii. 2, " out of the belly of 
Hades " (inibten sheol, fK KoiXias o5ou) seems a relic of original meaning. 


The conception of Hades as a monster swallowing men in 
death, was actually familiar to Christian thought. Thus, to 
take two instances from different periods, the account of the 
Descent into Hades in the Apocryphal Gospel of JMicodemus 
makes Hades speak in his proper personality, complaining that 
his belly is in pain, when the Saviour is to descend and set free 
the saints prisoned in it from the beginning of the world ; and 
in a mediaeval representation of this deliverance, Christ is de- 
picted standing before a huge hsh-like monster's open jaws, 
whence Adam and Eve are coming forth first of mankind.-^ 
With even more distinctness of mythical meaning, the man- 
devouring monster is introduced in the Scandinavian Eireks- 
Saga. Eirek, journeying toward Paradise, came to a stone 
bridge guarded by a dragon, and entering into its maw, found 
that he had arrived in the world of bliss.^ But in another 
wonder-tale, belonging to that legendary growth which formed 
round early Christian history, no such distinguishable remnant 
of nature-myth survives. St. Margaret, daughter of a priest of 
Antioch, had been cast into a dungeon, and there Satan came 
upon her in the form of a dragon, and swallowed her alive : 

*' Maiden Mergrete tho Loked her beside, 
And sees a loathly dragon, Out of an hirn glide : 
His ej'en were full griesly, His mouth opened wide, 
And Margrete might no v/liere flee There sbe must abide, 
Maiden Margrete Stood still as any stone, 
And that loathly worm, To her-ward gau gone 
Took her in his foul mouth, And swallowed her flesh and bone. 
Anon he brast — Damage hath she none ! 
Maiden Mergrete Upon the dragon stood ; 
Blyth was her harte, And joyful was her mood." ^ 

Stories belonging to the same group are not unknown to 
European folklore. One is the story of Little Red Riding 
Hood, mutilated in the English nursery version, but known 
more perfectly by old wives in Germany, who can tell that the 

^ 'Apoc. Gosp.' Nicodemus, ch. xx. ; Mrs. Jameson, 'History of our Lord in 
Art,' vol. ii. p. 258. 

2 Eireks Saga, 3, 4, in * Flateyjarbok,' vol. i., Chvistiania, 1859; Baring- 
Gould, ' Myths of the Middle Ages,' p. 238. 

^ Mrs. Jameson, 'Sacred and Legendary Art,' vol. ii. p. 138. 

X 2 


lovely little maid in her shining red satin cloak was swallowed 
with her grandmother by the Wolf, till they both came out 
safe and sound when the hunter cut open the sleeping beast. 
Any one who can fancy with Prince Plal, "the blessed sun him- 
self a fair hot wench in flam e-col cured taffeta," and can then 
imagine her swallowed up by Skoll, the Sun-devouring Wolf of 
Scandinavian mythology, may be inclined to class the tale of 
Little Red E^idinghood as a myth of sunset and sunrise. There 
is indeed another story in Grimm's Miirchen, partly the same as 
this one, which we can hardly doubt to have a quaint touch of 
sun- myth in it. It is called the Wolf and Seven Kids, and tells 
of the wolf swallowing the kids all but the youngest of the seven, 
who was hidden in the clock-case. As in Little R-ed Ridinghood 
they cut open the wolf and fill him with stones. This tale, 
which took its present shape since the invention of clocks, 
looks as though the tale-teller was thinking, not of real kids 
and wolf, but of days of the v/eek swallowed by night, or how 
should he have hit upon such a fancy a.s that the wolf could 
nob get at the youngest of the seven kids, because it was hidden 
(like to-day) in the clock-case ? ^ 

It may be worth while to raise the question apropos of this 
nursery tale, does the peasant folklore of modern Europe really 
still display episodes of nature-myth, not as mere broken-down 
and senseless fragments, but in full shape and significance ? In 
answer it will be enough to quote the story of Vasilissa the 
Beautiful, brought forward by Mr. W. Ralston in a recent 
lecture on Russian Folklore. Yasilissa's stepmother and two 
sisters, plotting against her life, send her to get a light at the 
house of Baba Yaga, the witch, and her journey contains the 
following history of the Day, told in truest mythic fashion. 

^ J. and W. Grimm, 'Kinder imd Hausmcirchen,' vol. i. pp. 26, 140 ; vol. iii. 
p. 15. For mentions of the wolf of darkness, see Max Mliller, 'Lectures/ 
2nd series, p. 506, see 379; Chips, etc., vol. ii. p. 103; Hanusch, p. 192;. 
Edda, Gylfaginning, 12; Grimm, 'D. M.' pp. 224, 668. With the episode of 
the stones substituted, compare the myth of Zeus and Kronos. For various 
other stories belonging to the group of the Man swallowed by the Monster, see 
Hardy, ' Manual of Buddhism,' p. 501 ; Lane, ' Thousand and One ISTiglits,' vol. iii. 
p. 104; Halliwell, 'Pop. Ehynies,'p. 98; 'Nursery Rhymes,' p. 48; 'Early Hist, 
of Mankind,' p. 337. 


Yasilissa goes and wanders, wanders in the forest. She goes, 
and she shudders. Suddenly before her bounds a rider, he 
himself white, and clad in white, the horse under him white, 
and the trappings white. And day began to dawn. She goes 
farther, when a second rider bounds forth, himself red, clad in 
red, and on a red horse. The sun began to rise. She goes on 
all day, and towards evening arrives at the vv^itch's house. 
Suddenly thei'e comes again a rider, himself black, clad in 
all black, and on. a black horse ; he bounded to the gates of the 
Baba Yaga and disappeared as if he had sunk through the 
earth. Night fell. After this, when Yasilissa asks the witch, 
who was the white rider, she answered, " That is my clear Day ;" 
who was the red rider, "That is my red Sun ;" who was the 
b)lack rider, " That is my black Night ; they are all my trusty 
friends." Now, considering that the story of Little E,ed Riding- 
hood belongs to the same class of folklore tales as this story of 
Yasilissa the Beautiful, we need not be afraid to seek in the one 
for traces of the same archaic type of nature-myth which 
the other not only keeps up, but keeps up with the fullest 
■consciousness of meaning. 

The development of nature-myth into heroic legend seems to 
have taken place among the savage tribes of the South Sea 
Islands and North America much as it took place among the 
ancestors of the classic nations of the Old World. We are not 
to expect accurate consistency or proper sequence of episodes in 
the heroic cycles, but to judge from the characteristics of the 
episodes themselves as to the ideas which suggested them. As 
regards the less cultured races, a glance at two legendary 
cycles, one from Polynesia and the other from North America, 
will serve to give an idea of the varieties of treatment of phases 
of sun-myth. The New Zealand myth of Maui, mixed as it may 
be with other fancies, is in its most striking features the story 
of Day and Night. The story of the Sun's birth from the ocean 
is thus told. There were five brothers, all called Maui, and it 
was the youngest Maui who had been thrown into the sea by 
Taranga his mother, and rescued by his ancestor Tama-nui-ki- 
te-Bangi, Great-Man-in-Heaven, who took him to his house, and 
hung him in the roof. Then is given in fanciful personality 


the tale of the vanishing of Night at dawn. One night, when 
Taranga came home, she found little Maui with his brothers, 
and when she knew her last born, the child of her old age, she 
took him to sleep with her, as she had been used to take the 
other Mauis his brothers, before they were grown up. But the 
little Maui grew vexed and suspicious, when he found that every 
morning his mother rose at dawn and disappeared from the 
house in a moment, not to return till nightfall. So one night 
he crept out and stopped every crevice in the wooden window 
and the doorway, that the day might not shine into the house ; 
then broke the faint light of early dawn, and then the sun rose 
and mounted into the heavens, but Taranga slept on, for she 
knew not it was broad day outside. At last she sprang up, 
pulled out the stopping of the chinks, and fled in dismay. Then 
Maui saw her plunge into a hole in the ground and disappear, 
and thus he found the deep cavern by which his mother went 
down below the earth as each night departed. After this, 
follows the episode of Maui's visit to his ancestress Muri-ranga- 
whenua, at that western Land's End where Maori souls descend 
into the subterranean region of the dead. She sniffs as he 
comes towards her, and distends herself to devour him, but 
when she has sniffed round from south by east to north, she 
smells his coming by the western breeze, and so knows that he 
is a descendant of hers. He asks for her wondrous jawbone, 
she gives it to him, and it is his weapon in his next exploit 
when he catches the sun, Tama-nui-te-Ra, Great-Man-Sun, in 
the noose, and wounds him and makes him go slowly. With a 
fishhook pointed wdth the miraculous jawbone, and smeared 
with his blood for bait, Maui next performs his most famous feat 
of fishing up New Zealand, still called Te-Ika-a-Maui, the fish 
of Maui. To understand this, we must compare the various 
versions of the story in these and other Pacific Islands, which 
show that it is a general myth of the raising of dry land from 
beneath the ocean. It is said elsewhere that it was Maui's 
grandfather, Rangi-Wenua, Heaven-Earth, who gave the jaw- 
bone. More distinctly, it is also said that Maui had two sons, 
whom he slew when young to take their jawbones ; now these 
two sons must be the Morning and Evening, for Maui made the 


morning and evening stars from an eye of each ; and it was with 
the jawbone of the eldest that he drew up the land from the 
deep. Thus the bringing up of the land from the ocean by the 
blood-stained jawbone of the morning seems to be a myth of the 
dawn. The metaphor of the jawbone of morning, somewhat far- 
fetched as it may seem, re-appears in the Rig- Veda, if Professor 
Max Miiller's interpretation of Sarameya as the Dawn will hold 
good in this passage : " When thou, bright Sarameya, openest thy 
teeth, O red one, spears seem to glitter on thy jaws as thou 
swallowest. Sleep, sleep." ^ Another Maori legend tells how 
Maui takes fire in his hands, it burns him, and he springs with 
it into the sea : " When he sank in the waters, the sun for the 
first time set, and darkness covered the earth. When he found 
that all was night, he immediately pursued the sun, and brought 
him back in the morning." When Maui carried or flung the 
fire into the sea, he set a volcano burning. It is told, again, 
that when Maui had put out all fires on earth, his mother sent 
him to get new fire from her ancestress Mahuika. The Ton- 
gans, in their version of the myth, relate how the youngest Maui 
discovers the cavern that leads to Bulotu, the west-land of the 
dead, and how his father, another Maui, sends him to the yet 
older Maui who sits by his great fire ; the two wrestle, and Maui 
brings away fire for men, leaving the old earthquake-god lying 
crippled below. The legendary group thus dramatizes the birth 
of the sun from the ocean and the departure of the night, the 
extinction of the light at sunset and its return at dawn, and the 
descent of the sun to the western Hades, the under-world of night 
and death, which is incidentally identified with the region of sub- 
terranean fire and earthquake. Here, indeed, the characteristics 
of true nature-myth are not indistinctly marked, and Maui's 
death by his ancestress the Night fitly ends his solar career.^ 

* Rig-Veda, vii. 54 ; Max Miiller, * Lectures,' 2ii(l ser. p. 473. 

2 Grey, 'Polyn. Myth.' p. 16, etc., see 144. Other details in Schirreii, 
' Wandersagen der Ncuseelauder,' pp. 32-7, 143-51 ; K Taylor, 'New Zealand,' 
p. 124, etc.; compare 116, 141, etc., and volcano-myth, p. 248; Yate, 'New 
Zealand,' p. 142; Polack, *M. and C. of New. Z.' vol. i. p. 15 ; S. S. Farmer, 
'Tonga Is.' p. 134. See also Turner, 'Polynesia,' pp. 252, 527 (Samoan version). 
In comparing the group of Maui-legends it is to be observed that New Zealand 
Mahuika and Maui-Tikitiki correspond to Tongan Mafuike and Kijikiji, Samoan 
Mafuie and Tiitii. 


It is a sunset-stoiy, very differently conceived, that begins the 
beautiful North American Indian myth of the Red Swan. The 
story belongs to the Algonquin race. The hunter Ojibwa had 
just killed a bear and begun to skin him, when suddenly some- 
thing red tinged all the air around. Reaching the shore of a 
lake, the Indian saw it was a beautiful red swan, whose 
plumage glittered in the sun. In vain the hunter shot his 
shafts, for the bird floated unharmed and unheeding, but at last 
he remembered three magic arrows at home, which had been 
his father's. The first and second arrow flew near and nearer, 
the third struck the swan, a,nd flapping its wings, it flew off 
slowly toward the sinking of the sun. With full sense of the 
poetic solar meaning of this episode, Longfellow has adapted it- 
as a sunset picture, in one of his Indian poems : 

" Can it be the sun descending 
O'er the level plain of water ? 
Or the Eed Swan floating, flying, 
"Wounded by the magic arrow, 
Staining all the waves with crimson. 
With the crimson of its life-blood, 
EilUng all the air with splendour, 
With the splendour of its plumage ? " 

The story goes on to tell how the hunter speeds westward in 
pursuit of the Red Swan. At lodges where he rests, they tell 
him she has often passed there, but those who followed her have 
never returned. She is the daughter of an old magician who 
has lost his scalp, which Ojibwa succeeds in recovering for him 
and puts back on his head, and the old man rises from the 
earth, no longer aged and decrepit, but splendid in youthful 
glory. Ojibwa departs, and the magician calls forth the beauti- 
ful maiden, now not his daughter but his sister, and gives her to 
his victorious friend. It was in after days, when Ojibwa had 
gone home with his bride, that he travelled forth, and coming 
to an opening in the earth, descended and came to the abode of 
departed spirits; there he could behold the bright western 
region of the good, and the dark cloud of wickedness. But the 
spirits told him that his brethren at home were quarrellino- for 
the possession of his wife, and at last, after long wandering, this 


Eed Indian Odysseus returned to his mourning constant Pene- 
lope, laid the magic arrows to his bow, and stretched the wicked 
suitors dead at his feet. ^ Thus savage legends from Polynesia 
and America may well support the theory that Odysseus 
visiting the Elysian fields, or Orpheus descending to the land 
of Hades to bring back the "wide-shining" Eurydike, are but 
the Sun him_self descending to, and ascending from, the world 

Where Night and Hades take personal shape in myth, we 
may expect to find conceptions like that simply shown in a 
Sanskrit word for evening, "rajanimukha," i. e., "mouth of 
night." Thus the Scandinavians told of Hel the death-goddess, 
with mouth gaping like the mouth of Fenrir her brother the 
moon-devouring wolf; and an old German poem describes Hell's 
abyss yaAvning from heaven to earth : 

' ' der was der Hellen gelicb. 
diu daz abgrunde 
begenit mit ir inunde 
Tinde den himel zuo der erden." " 

The sculptures on cathedrals still display for the terror of the 
wicked the awful jaws of Death, the mouth of Hell wide yawn- 
ing to swallow its victims. Again, where barbaric cosmology 
accepts the doctrine of a firmament arching above the earth, 
and of an under world whither the sun descends when he sets 
and man when he dies, here the conception of gates or portals, 
whether really or metaphorically meant, has its place. Such is 
the great gate v/hich the Gold Coast negro describes the Heaven 
as opening in the morning for the Sun ; such vv^ere the ancient 
Greek's gates of Hades, and the ancient Jew's gates of Sheol. 
There are three mythic descriptions connected with these ideas 
found among the Karens, the Algonquins, and the Aztecs, which 
are deserving of special notice. The Karens of Birma, a 

^ Schoolcraft, ' Algic Res.' vol. ii. pp. 1-33. The three arrows recur in Mana- 
bozho's slaying the Shining Manitu, vol. i. p. 153. See the curiously correspond- 
ing three magic arrows in Orvar Odil's Saga ; Nilsson, 'Stone Age,' p. 197. The 
lied-Swan myth of sunset is introduced in George Eliot's 'Spanish Gypsy,' p. 63; 
Longfellow, ' Hiawatha,' xii. 

2 Grimm, ' D. M.' pp. 291, 767. 



race among whose special ideas are curiously mixed thoughts 
borrowed from the more cultured races they have been in con- 
tact with, have precedence here for the distinctness of their 
statement. They say that in the west there are two massive 
strata of rocks which are continually opening and shutting, and 
between these strata the sun descends at sunset, but how the 
upper stratum is supported, no one can describe. The idea 
comes well into view in the description of a Bghai festival, 
where sacrificed fowls are thus addressed, — "The seven heavens, 
thou ascendest to the top ; the seven earths, thou descendest 
to the bottom. Thou arrivest at Khu-the ; thou goest unto 
Tha-ma [i. e., Yama, the Judge of the Dead in Hades]. Thou 
goest through the crevices of rocks, thou goest through the 
crevices of precipices. At the opening and shutting of the 
western gates of rock, thou goest in between ; thou goest below 
the earth where the Sun travels. I emplo}?^ thee, I exhort thee. 
I make thee a messenger, I make thee an angel, etc." ^ Passing 
from Birma to the region of the North American lakes, we find 
a corresponding description in the Ottawa tale of Iosco, already 
quoted here for its clearly marked personification of Sun and 
Moon. This legend, though modern in some of its description 
of the Europeans, their ships, and their far-off land across the 
sea, is evidently founded on a myth of Day and Night. Iosco 
seems to be loskeha, the White One, whose contest with his 
brother Tawiscara, the Dark One, is an early and most genuine 
Huron nature-myth of Day and Night. Iosco and his friends 
travel for years eastward and eastward to reach the sun, and come 
at last to the dwelling of Manabozho near the edge of the world, 
and then, a little beyond, to the chasm to be passed on the way 
to the land of the Sun and Moon. They began to hear the sound 
of the beating sky, and it seemed near at hand, but they had far 
to travel before they reached the place. When the sky came 
down, its pressure would force gusts of wind from the opening, 
so strong that the travellers could hardly keep their feet, and 
the sun passed but a short distance above their heads. The 
sky would come down with violence, but it would rise slowly 

^ Mason, 'Karens' in * Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,* 1865, part ii. pp. 233-4. 


and gradually. Iosco and one of his friends stood near the edge, 
and with a great effort leapt through and gained a foothold on 
the other side ; but the other two were fearful and undecided, 
and when their companions called to them through the dark- 
ness, " Leap ! leap ! the sky is on its way down," they looked 
up and saw it descending, but paralyzed by fear they sprang 
so feebly that they only reached the other side with their 
hands, and the sky at the same moment striking violently on 
the earth with a terrible sound, forced them into the dreadful 
black abyss.^ Lastly, in the funeral ritual of the Aztecs there 
is found a like description of the first peril that the shade had 
to encounter on the road leading to that subterranean Land 
of the Dead, which the sun lights Y,^hen it is night on earth. 
Giving the corpse the first of the passports that were to carry 
him safe to his journey's end, the survivors said to him, "With 
these you will pass between the two mountains that smite one 
against the other." ^ On the suggestion of this group of solar 
conceptions and that of Maui's death, we may perhaps ex- 
plain as derived from a broken-down fancy of solar-myth, 
that famous episode of Greek legend, where the good ship 
Argo passed between the Symplegades, those two huge cliffs 
that opened and closed again with swift and violent collision.^ 
Can any effort of baseless fancy have brought into the poet's 
mind a thought so quaint in itself, yet so fitting with the Karen 
and Aztec myths of the gates of Night and of Death ? With the 
Maori legend, the Argonautic tale has a yet deeper coincidence. 
In both the event is to determine the future ; but this thought 
is worked out in two converse ways. If Maui passed through 
the entrance of Night and returned to Day, death should not 
hold mankind ; if the Argo passed the Clashers, the way should 

^ Schoolcraft, 'Algic Researches,' vol. ii. p. 40, etc.; Loskiel, * Gesch. der 
Mission,' Barby, 1789, p. 47 (the English edition, part i. p. 35, is incorrect). See 
also Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' p. 63. 

^ Torqiiemada, ' Monarquia Indiana,' xiii. 47; "Con estos has de pasar por 
medio de dos Sierras, que se estan batiendo, y encontrando la nna con la otra." 
Clavigero, vol. ii. p. 94. 

^ ApoUodor. i. 9, 22 ; Apollon. Shod. Argonautica, ii. 310-615 ; Pindar, 
Pythia Carm. iv. 370. See Kuhn, ' Herabkunft des Feuers,' p. 152 (mention of 


lie open between them for ever. The Argo sped through in 
safety, and the Symplegades can clash no longer on the passing 
ship ; Maui was crushed, and man comes not forth again from 

There is another solar metaphor which describes the sun, not 
as a personal creature, but as a member of a yet greater being. 
He is called in Java and Sumatra " Mata-ari," in Madagascar 
" Maso-andro," the "Eye of Day." If we look for translation 
of this thought from metaphor into myth, we may find it in the 
New Zealand stories of Maui setting his own eye up in heaven 
as the Sun, and the eyes of his two children as the Morning 
and the Evening Stars.^ The nature-myth thus implicitly and 
explicitly stated is one widely developed on Arj^an ground. It 
forms part of that macrocosmic description of the universe well 
known in Asiatic myth, and in Europe expressed in that pas- 
sage of the Orphic poem which tells of Jove, at once the world's 
ruler and the world itself : his glorious head irradiates the sky 
where hangs his starry hair, the waters of the sounding ocean 
are the belt that girds his sacred body the earth omniparent, 
his eyes are sun and moon, his mind, moving and ruling by 
counsel all things, is the royal sether that no voice nor sound 
escapes : 

" Sunt oculi Phoebus, Phoeboque adversa recurrens 
Cynthia. Mens verax nullique obnoxius aether 
Eegius interitu', qui cuncta movetque regitque 
Consilio. Vox nulla potest, sonitusve, nee ullus 
Hancce Jovis sobolem strepitus, nee fama latere. 
Sic animi sensum, et caput immortale beatus 
Obtinet : illustre, inimensum, immutabile pandens, 
Atque lacertorum valido stans robore certus." ^ 

Where the Aryan myth-maker takes no thought of the lesser 
light, he can in various terms describe the sun as the eye of 
heaven. In the Rig- Veda it is the " eye of Mitra, Varuna, 
and Agni " — " chakshuh Mitrasya Varunasyah Agneh." ^ In 

1 Polack, 'Manners of N. Z.' vol. i. p. 16; 'New Zealand,' vol. i. p. 358; 
Yate, p. 142 ; SchiiTen, pp. 88, 165. 

2 Euseb. Prsep. Evang. iii. 9. 

^ Kig-Veda, i. 115 ; Bolitlingk and Eoth, s.v. 'mitra.' 


the Zend-Avesta it is " the shining sun with the swift horses^ 
the eye of Ahura-Mazda and Mithra, the lord of the region." ^ 
To Hesiod it is the " all-seeing eye of Zeus " — '' 7:avTa Ihiav 
Aios oipOaXfjios : " Macrobius speaks of antiquity calling the sun 
the eye of Jove — '' ri ijkios ; ovpavios o^OaKixosy " The old 
Germans, in calling the sun "Wuotan's eye,"^ recognized 
Wuotan, Woden, Oclhin, as being himself the divine Heaven. 
These mythic expressions are of the most unequivocal type. 
By the hint they give, conjectural interpretations may be here 
not indeed asserted, but suggested, for two of the quaintest 
episodes of ancient European myth. Odin, the All-father, say 
the old scalds of Scandinavia, sits among his ^sir in the city 
Asgard, on his high throne Hlidskialf, whence he can look 
down over the whole world discerning all the deeds of men. 
He is an old man wrapped in his wide cloak, and clouding his 
face with his wide hat, " os pileo ne cultu proderetur obnubens," 
as Saxo Grammaticus has it. Odin is one-eyed ; he desired to 
drink from Mimir's well, but he had to leave there one of his 
eyes in pledge, as it is said in the Yoluspa : 

''AUknowI, Odin! 
"Where thou hiclclest thine eye 
In Mimir's famous well." 

We need hardly seek this wonder in Mimir's well of wisdom, 
for any other pool will show the lost eye of Odin, to him 
who gazes at the sun reflected in its waters, when the other eye 
of heaven, the real sun, stands high at noon.* Possibly, too, 
some such solar fancy may explain part of the myth of Perseus. 
There are three Scandinavian Norns, whose names are Urdhr, 
Verdhandi, and Skuld — Was, and Is, and Shall-be — and these 
three maidens are the '•' Weird sisters " who fix the lifetime of 
all men. So the Fates, the Parkse, daughters of the inevitable 
Anangke, divide among them the periods of time : Lachesis 
sings the past, Klotho the present, Atropos the future. Now is 

1 Avesta, tr. Spiegel and Bleeck, Ya9iia, 1, 35 ; compare Biirnouf, Yagna. 

2 Macrob. Saturnal. i. 21, 13. See Max Miiller, 'Chips,' vol, ii. p. S5. 

3 Grimm, 'Deutsche Myth.' p. QQ5. See also Haniisch, 'Slaw. Myth.' p. 213. 

4 Edda, 'Voluspa,' 22; ' Gylfaginning,' 15. See Grimm, ' D. M.' p. 133. 


it allowable to consider tliese fatal sisters as of common nature 
with two other mythic sister-triads — the Graise and their kins- 
folk the Gorgon s ? If it be so, it is easy to understand why 
of the three Gorgons one alone was mortal, whose life her two 
immortal sisters could not save, for the deathless past and 
future cannot save the ever-dying present. Nor would the 
riddle be hard to read ; what is the one eye that the Graise had 
between them, and passed from one to another ? — the eye of 
day — the sun, that the past gives up to the present, and the 
present to the future.^ 

Compared with the splendid Lord of Day, the pale Lady of 
Night takes, in myth as in nature, a lower and lesser place. 
Among the wide legendary group which associates together Sun 
and Moon, two striking examples are to be seen in the traditions 
by which half-civilized races of South America traced their rise 
from the condition of the savage tribes around them. These 
legends have been appealed to even by modern writers as grate- 
fully-remembered records of real human benefactors, who carried 
long ago to America the culture of the Old World. But hap- 
pily for historic truth, mythic tradition tells its tales without 
expurgating the episodes which betray its real character to 
more critical observation. The Muyscas of the high plains of 
Bogota were once, they said, savages without agriculture, reli- 
gion or law ; but there came to them from the East an old and 

^ As to the identification of the Norns and the Fates, see Grimm, 'D. M.' 
pp. 376-86; Max Miiller, 'Chips,' vol. ii. p. 154. It is to be observed in con- 
]iexion with the Perseus-myth, that another of its obscure episodes, the Gorgon's 
head turning those who look on it into stone, corresponds with myths of the sun 
itself. In Hispaniola, men came out of two caves (thus being born of their mother 
Earth) ; the giant who guarded these caves strayed one night, and the rising sun 
turned him into a great rock called Kauta, just as the Gorgon's head turned Atlas 
the Earth-bearer into the mountain that bears his name ; after this, others of the 
early cave-men were surprised by the sunlight, and turned into stones, trees, plants 
or beasts (Friar Eoman Pane in * Life of Columbus ' in Pinkerton, vol. xii. p. 80 ; 
J. G. MUUer, 'Amer. Urrelig.' p. 179). In Central America a Quiche legend 
relates how the ancient animals were petrified by the Sun (Brasseur, 'Popol Vuh,' 
p. 245). Thus the Americans have the analogue of the Scandinavian myths of 
giants and dwarfs surprised by daylight outside their hiding-places, and turned 
to stones. Such fancies appear connected with the fancied human shapes of rocks 
or "standing-stones" which peasants still account for as transformed creatures ; 
this idea is brought also into the Perseus-myth, for the rocks abounding in 
Seriphos are the islanders tlms petrified b}'' the Gorgon's head. 


bearded man, Bochica, the child of the Sun, and he taught them 
to till the fields, to clothe themselves, to worship the gods, to 
become a nation. But Bochica had a wicked, beautiful wife, 
Huythaca, who loved to spite and spoil her husband's work ; 
and she it was who made the river swell till the land was 
covered by a flood, and but a few of mankind escaped upon 
the mountain-tops. Then Bochica was wroth, and he drove 
the wicked Huythaca from the earth, and made her the Moon, 
for there had been no moon before ; and he cleft the rocks and 
made the mighty cataract of Tequendama, to let the deluge 
flow away. Then, when the land was dry, he gave to the 
remnant of mankind the year and its periodic sacrifices, and 
the worship of the Sun. Now the people who told this myth 
had not forgotten, what indeed we might guess without their 
help, that Bochica was himself Zuhe, the Sun, and Huythaca, 
the Sun's wife, the Moon.^ 

Like to this in. meaning, though different in fancy, is the 
civilization-myth of the Incas. Men, said this Qqichua legend, 
Avere lawless naked savages, devouring what unaided nature 
gave, adoring plants and beasts with rude fetish-worship. But 
our father the Sun took pity on them, and sent two of his chil- 
dren, Manco Ccapac and his sister- wife, Mama Oello : these 
rose from the lake of Titicaca, and gave to the naked, uncul- 
tured hordes law and government and moral order, tillage 
and art and science. Thus was founded the great Peruvian 
empire, where in after ages the Sun and Moon were still repre- 
sented in rule and religion by the Inca and his sister-wife, con- 
tinuing the mighty race of Manco Ccapac and Mama Oello. 
But the two great ancestors returned when their earthly work 
was done, to become, what we may see they had never ceased 
to be, the sun and moon themselves.^ Thus the nations of 

^ Piedrahita. 'Hist. Gen. de las Conquistas del Nuevo Reyno de Granada,' 
Antwerji, 1688, part i. lib. i. c. 3; Humboldt, * Moimmens,' pi. vi. ; J. G. 
Miiller, * Amer. Urrelig.' pp. 423-30. 

- Garcilaso de la Vega, * Commentarios Reales,' i. c. 15; Prescott, 'Peru,' 
vol. i. p. 7 ; J. G. Miiller, pp. 303-8, 328-39. Other Peruvian versions show 
the fundamental solar idea in different mythic shapes (Tr. of Cieza de Leon, 
tr. and ed. by C. R. Markham, Hakhiyt. Soc. 1864, p. xlix. 298, 316, 372). 
W. B. Stevenson ('Residence in S. America,' vol. i, p. 394) and Bastian ('Mensch,* 


Bogota and Peru, remembering their days of former savagery, 
and the association of their culture with their national religion, 
embodied their traditions in myths of an often-recurring type, 
ascribing to the gods themselves, in human shape, the establish^ 
ment of their own v/orship. 

The "inconstant moon" figures in a group of characteristic 
stories. Australian legend says that Mityan, the Moon, was a 
native cat, Avho fell in love with some one else's wife, and was 
driven away to wander ever since.' The Khasias of the Hima- 
laya say that the Moon falls monthly in love with his mother- 
in-law, who throws ashes in his face, whence his spots." Slavonic 
legend, following the same track, says that the Moon, King of 
night and husband of the Sun, faithlessly loves the Morning 
Star, wherefore he was cloven through in punishment, as we 
see him in the sky." By a different train of thought, the 
Moon's periodic death and revival has suggested a painful con- 
trast to the destiny of man, in one of the most often-repeated 
and characteristic myths of South Africa, which is thus told 
among the Namaqua. The Moon once sent the Hare to Men 
to give this message, " Like as I die and rise to life again, so 
3^ou also shall die and rise to life again," but the Hare went to 
the Men and said, " Like as I die and do not rise again, so you 
shall also die and not rise to life again." Then the Hare re- 
turned and told the Moon what he had done, and the Moon, 
struck at him with a hatchet and slit his lip, as it has remained 
ever since, and some say the Hare iled and is still fleeing, but 
others say he clawed at the Moon's face and left the scars that 
are still to be seen on it, and they say also that the reason why 
the Namaqua object to eating the hare (a prejudice which in 
fact they share with very different races) is because he brought 
to men this evil message.^ It is remarkable that a story so 

vol. iii. p. 347) met with a curious perversion of the myth, in which Inca Manca 
Ccapac, corrupted into Ingasman Cocapac, gave rise to a stoiy of an Englishman 
figuring in the midst of Peruvian mythology. 

1 Stanbridge, 'Abor. of Australia' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. p. 301. 

^ J. D. Hooker, 'Himalayan Journals,' vol. ii. p. 276. 

3 Hanusch, ' Slaw. Myth.' p. ^69. 

^ Bleek, 'Ee3'nard in S. Africa,' pp. 69-74 ; C. J. Andersson, 'Lake ITgami,' 
p. 328 ; see Grout, 'Zulu-land,' p. 148; Arbousset and Daumas, jx 471. As to 


closely resembling this, that it is difficult not to suppose both 
to be versions from a common original, is told in the distant 
Fiji Islands. There was a dispute between two gods as to how 
man should die : " Ra Vula (the Moon) contended that man 
should be like himself — disappear awhile and then live again. 
Ra Kalavo (the Eat) would not listen to this kind proposal, 
but said, ^Let man die as a rat dies.' And he prevailed." The 
dates of the versions seem to show that the presence of these 
myths among the Hottentots and Fijians, at the two opposite 
sides of the globe, is at any rate not due to transmission in 
modern times.^ 

There is a very elaborate savage nature-myth of the genera- 
tion of the Stars, which may unquestionably serve as a clue 
connecting the history of two distant tribes. The rude Mintira 
of the Malayan Peninsula express in plain terms the belief in a 
solid firmament, usual in the lower grades of civilization ; they 
say the sky is a great pot held over the earth by a cord, and if 
this cord broke, everything on earth would be crushed. The 
Moon is a woman, and the Sun also : the Stars are the Moon's 
children, and the Sun had in old times as many. Fearing, 
however, that mankind could not bear so much brightness and 
heat, they agreed each to devour her children ; but the Moon, 
instead of eating up her Stars, hid them from the Sun's sight, 
who, believing them all devoured, ate up her own ; no sooner 
had she done it, than the Moon brought her family out of their 
hiding-place. When the Sun saw them, filled with rage she 
chased the Moon to kill her ; the chase has lasted ever since, 
and sometimes the Sun even comes near enough to bite the 
Moon, and that is an eclipse ; the Sun, as men may still see, 
devours his Stars at dawn, but the Moon hides hers all day 
while the Sun is near, and only brings them out at night when 
her pursuer is far away. Now among a tribe of North East 

connexion of the moon "with the hare, cf. Skr. ''^ajanka;" and in Mexico, 
Sahagun, book vii. c. 2, in Kingsborongh, vol. vii. 

^ Williams, ' Fiji,' vol. i. p. 205. Compare the Caroline Island myth that in 
the beginning men only quitted life on the last day of the waning moon, and 
resuscitated as from a peaceful sleep when she reappeared ; but the evil spirit 
Erigirers inflicted a death from which there is no revival : De Brosses, * Hist, des 
Navig. aux Terres Australes,' vol. ii. p. 479. 

VOL. I. Y 



India, tlie Ho of Chota-Nagpore, the myth reappears, obviously 
from the same source, but with a varied ending ; the Sun cleft 
the Moon in twain for her deceit, and thus cloven and growing- 
whole again she remains, and her daughters with her which are 
the Stars.^ 

From savagery up to civilization, there may be traced in the 
mythology of the Stars a course of thought, changed indeed in 
application, yet never broken in its evident connexion from first 
to last. The savage sees individual stars as animate beings, or 
combines star-groups into living celestial creatures, or limbs of 
them, or objects connected with them ; while at the other 
extremity of the scale of civilization, the modern astronomer 
keeps up just such ancient fancies, turning them to account in 
useful survival, as a means of mapping out the celestial globe. 
The savage names and stories of stars and constellations may 
seem at first but childish and purposeless fancies ; but it always 
happens in the study of the lower races, that the more means 
we have of understanding their thoughts, the more sense and 
reason do we find in them. The aborigines of Australia say 
that Yurree and Wanjel, who are the stars we call Castor and 
Pollux, pursue Purra the Kangaroo (our Capella), and kill him 
at the beginning of the great heat, and the mirage is the smoke 
of the fire they roast him by. They say also that Marpean- 
Kurrk and Neilloan (Arcturus and Lyra) were the discoverers 
of the ant-pupas and the eggs of the loan-bird, and taught the 
aborigines to find them for food. Translated into the language 
of fact, these simple myths record the summer place of the stars 
in question, and the seasons of ant-pupas and loan-eggs, which 
seasons are marked by the stars who are called their disco- 
verers.^ Not less transparent is the meaning in the beautiful 
Algonquin myth of the Summer-Maker. In old days eternal 
winter reigned upon the earth, till the Fisher, helped by other 
beasts his friends, broke an opening through the sky into the 
lovely heaven-land beyond, let the warm winds pour forth and 
the summer descend to earth, and opened the cages of the pri- 

* Journ. Ind. Archip. vol. i. p. 284 ; vol. iv. p. 333 ; Tickell in ' Journ. As. 
Soc' vol. ix. part ii. p. 797 ; Latham, 'Descr. Eth.' vol. ii. p. 422. 
2 Stanbridge in * Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. pp. 301-3. 


soned birds : but when tlie dwellers in heaven saw their birds 
let loose and their warm gales descending, they started in pur- 
suit, and shooting their arrows at the Fisher, hit him at last in 
his one vulnerable spot at the tip of his tail ; thus he died for 
the good of the inhabitants of earth, and became the constella- 
tion that bears his name, so that still at the proper season men 
see him lying as he fell toward the north on the plains of 
heaven, with the fatal arrow still sticking in his tail.-^ Compare 
these savage stories with Orion pursuing the Pleiad sisters Avho 
take refuge from him in the sea, and the maidens who wept 
themselves to death and became the starry cluster of the 
Hyades, whose rising and setting betokened rain : such mythic 
creatures might for simple significance have been invented by 
savages, even as the savage constellation-myths might have 
been made by ancient Greeks. When we consider that the 
Australians who can invent such mvths, and invent them with 
such fulness of meaning, are savages Avho put two and one to- 
gether to make their numeral for three, we may judge how 
deep in the history of culture those conceptions lie, of which 
the relics are still represented in our star-maps by Castor and 
Pollux, Arcturus and Sirius, Bootes and Orion, the Argo and 
the Charles's Wain, the Toucan and the Southern Cross. 
Whether civilized or savage, v/hether ancient or new-made after 
the ancient manner, such names are so like in character that 
any tribe of men might adopt them from any other, as 
American tribes are known to receive European names into 
their own skies, and as our constellation of the Royal Oak 
is said to have found its way in new copies of old Hindu 
treatises, into the company of the Seven Sages and the other 
ancient constellations of Brahmanic India. 

Such fancies are so fanciful, that two peoples seldom fall on 
the same name for a constellation, while, even within the limits 
of the same race, terms may differ altogether. Thus the stars 

^ Sclioolcraft, * Algic Kes.' vol. i. pp. 57-66. The story of the hero or deity 
invulnerable like Achilles save in one weak spot, recurs in the tales of the slaying 
of the Shining Manitu, whose scalp alone was vulnerable, and of the mighty 
Kwasind, who could be killed only by the cone of the Avhite pine wounding the 
vulnerable place on the crown of his head (vol. i. p. 153 ; vol. ii. p. 163). 

Y 2 



which we call Orion's Belt are in New Zealand either the- 
Elbow of Maui, or they form the stern of the Canoe of Tamare- 
rete, whose anchor dropped from the prow is the Southern 
Cross.^ The Great Bear is equally like a Wain, Orion's Belt 
serves as well for Frigga's or Mary's Spindle, or Jacob's Staff. 
Yet sometimes natural correspondences occur. The seven sister 
Pleiades seem to the Australians a group of girls playing to a 
corroboree ; while the North American Indians call them the 
Dancers, and the Lapps the Company of Virgins.^ Still more 
striking is the correspondence between savages and cultured 
nations in fancies of the bright starry band that lies like a road 
across the sky. The Basutos call it the " Way of the Gods ; " 
the Ojis say it is the " Way of Spirits," which souls go up to 
heaven by.^ North American tribes know it as " the Path of 
the Master of Life," the "Path of Spirits," "the Koad of Souls," 
where they travel to the land beyond the grave, and where their 
camp-fires may be seen blazing as brighter stars.* Such savage 
imaginations of the Milky Way fit with the Lithuanian myth of 
the " Road of the Birds," at whose end the souls of the good, 
fancied as flitting away at death like birds, dwell free and happy.^ 
That souls dwell in the Galaxy was a thought familiar to the 
Pythagoreans, who gave it on their master's Avord that the souls 
that crowd there descend, and appear to men as dreams,^ and 
to the Manichseans whose fancy transferred pure souls to this 
''column of light," whence they could come down to earth and 
again return.''' It is a fall from such ideas of the Galaxy to the 

1 Taylor, ' New Zealand, ' p. 363. 

2 Stanbridge, 1. c. ; Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 148 ; Leems, Lapland, in Pinker- 
ton, vol. 1. p. 411. The name of the Bear occurring in North America in con- 
nexion with the stars of the Great and Little Bear (Charlevoix, 1. c. ; Cotton 
Mather in Schoolcraft, * Tribes,' vol. i. p. 284) has long been remarked on 
(Goguet, vol. i. p. 262 ; a'-oI. ii. p. 366, but with reference to Greenland, see 
Cranz, p. 294). See observations on the history of the Aryan name in Max. 
Miiller, ' Lectures, ' 2nd series, p. 361. 

^ Casalis, p. 196; Waitz, vol. ii. p. 191. 

"^ Long's Exp. vol. i. p. 288 ; Schoolcraft, part. i. p. 272 ; Le Jeune in ' Eel., 
des Jes. de la Nouvelle France,' 1634, p. 18; Loskiel, part i. p. 35; J. G.. 
Miiller, p. 63. 

« Hanusch, pp. 272, 407, 415. 

^ Porphyr. de Antro Nympharura, 28 ; Macrob. de Somn. Scip. i. 12. 

7 Beausobre, 'Hist, de Manichee,' vol. ii. p. 513. 


Siamese " Road of the White Elephant," the Spaniards' "Road 
of Santiago," or the Turkish " Pilgrims' Road," and a still lower 
fall to the "Straw Road " of the Syrian, the Persian, and the 
Turk, who. thus compare it with their lanes littered with the 
morsels of straw that fall from the nets they carry it in.^ But 
of all the fancies which have attached themselves to the celestial 
road, we at home have the quaintest. Passing along the short 
and crooked way from St. Paul's to Cannon Street, one thinks 
to how small a remnant has shrunk the name of the great street 
of the Waetlingas, y/hich in old days ran from Dover through 
London into Wales. But there is a Watling Street in heaven 
as well as on earth, once familiar to Englishmen, though now 
perhaps forgotten even in local dialect. Chaucer thus speaks of 
it in his ' House of Fame : ' — 

" Lo there (quod he) cast up thine eye, 
Se yondir, lo, the Galaxie, 
The whiche men clepe The Milky Waj^, 
Por it is white, and some parfay, 
Ycallin it han Watlynge strete." ^ 

Turning from the mythology of the heavenly bodies, a glance 
over other districts of nature-myth will afford fresh evidence 
that such legend has its early home within the precincts of 
savage culture. It is thus with the myths of the Winds. The 
New Zealanders tell how Maui can ride upon the other Winds 
or imprison them in their caves, but he cannot catch the West 
Wind nor find its cave to roll a stone against the mouth, and 
therefore it prevails, yet from time to time he all but overtakes 
it, and hiding in its cave for shelter it dies away.^ Such is the 
fancy in classic poetry of ^olus holding the prisoned winds in 
his dungeon cave : — 

1 Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol, iii. p. 341; 'Chronique de Tabari,' tr. 
Dubeux, p. 24 ; Grimm, ' D. M.' p. 330, etc. 

2 Chaucer, ' House of Fame,* ii. 427. With reference to questions of Aryan 
•mythology illustrated by the savage galaxy-myths, see Pictet, * Origines,' 
part ii. p. 582, etc. 

3 Yate, 'New Zealand,' p. 144, see Ellis, * Polyn. Res.' vol. ii. p. 417. 


' ' Hie vasto rex ^olus antro 
Luctantes ventos, tempestatesque sonoras 
Imperio premit, ac vinclis et carcere frsenat." * 

The myth of the Four Winds is developed among the native 
races of America with a range and vigour and beauty scarcely 
rivalled elsewhere in the mythology of the world. Episodes 
belonging to this branch of Red Indian folklore are collected in 
Schoolcraft's ' Algic Researches/ and thence rendered with ad- 
mirable taste and sympathy, though unfortunately not with 
proper truth to the originals, in Longfellow's master-piece, the 
' Song of Hiawatha.' The West Wind Mudjekeewis is Kabeyun, 
Father of the Winds, Wabun is the East Wind, Shawondasee 
the South Wind, Kabibonokka the North Wind. But there is 
another mighty wind not belonging to the mystic quaternion, 
Manabozho the North-West Wind, therefore described with 
mythic appropriateness as the unlawful child of Kabeyun. The 
fierce North Wind, Kabibonokka, in vain strives to force 
Shingebis, the lingering diver-bird, from his warm and happy 
winter-lodge ; and the lazy South Wind, Shawondasee, sighs for 
the maiden of the prairie with her sunny hair, till it turns to 
silvery white, and as he breathes upon her, the prairie dan- 
delion has vanished.^ Man naturally divides his horizon into 
four quarters, before and behind, right and left, and thus 
comes to fancy the world a square, and to refer the winds to its 
four corners. Dr. Brinton, in his ^ Myths of the New World,' has 
well traced from these ideas the growth of legend after legend 
among the native races of America, where four brother heroes, 
or mythic ancestors or divine patrons of mankind, prove, on 
closer view, to be in personal shape the Four Winds.^ 

The Yedic hymns to the Maruts, the Storm Winds, who 
tear asunder the forest kings and make the rocks shiver, 
and assume again, after their wont, the form of new-born, 
babes, the mythic feats of the child Hermes in the Homeric 
hymn, the legendary birth of Boreas from Astraios and Eos, 

1 Virg. iEneid. i. 56 ; Homer. Odys. x. 1. 

2 Schoolcraft, 'Algic Ees.' vol. i. p. 200; vol. ii. pp. 122,214 ; 'Indian Tribes,* 
part iii. p. 324. 

^ Brinton, * Myths of the New World,' ch. iii. 


Starry Heaven and Dawn, work out, on Aryan ground, mythic 
conceptions that Eed Indian tale-tellers could understand and 
rival.^ The peasant who keeps up in fireside talk the memory 
of the Wild Huntsman, Wodejager, the Grand Veneur of 
Fontainebleau, Heme the Hunter of Windsor Forest, has 
almost lost the significance of this grand old storm-myth. By 
mere force of tradition, the name of the " Wish " or " Wush " 
hounds of the Wild Huntsman has been preserved through the 
west of England ; the words must for ages past have lost their 
meaning among the country folk, though we may plainly re- 
cognize in them Woden's ancient well-known name, old German 
" Wunsch." As of old, the Heaven-god drives the clouds before 
him in raging tempest across the sky, while, safe within the 
cottage walls, the tale-teller unwittingly describes, in personal 
legendary shape, this same Wild Hunt of the Storm.^ 

It has many a time occurred to the savage poet or philosopher 
to realize the thunder, or its cause, in myths of a Thunder-Bird. 
Of this wondrous creature North American legend has much to 
tell. He is the bird of the great Manitu, as the eagle is of 
Zeus, or he is even the great Manitu himself incarnate. The 
Assiniboins not only know of his existence, but have even seen 
him ; in the far north the story is told how he created the 
world ; in British Columbia the Indians offer the first-fruits of 
their salmon and their venison to the Great Spirit, who, they 
say, flies down to earth from his dwelling in the sun, and the 
thunder and the lightning are the clapping of his wings and the 
flashing of his eyes in anger. Of such myths, perhaps, that told 
among the Dacotas is the quaintest : Thunder is a large bird, 
they say; hence its velocity. The old bird begins the thunder; 
its rumbling noise is caused by an immense quantity of young 
birds, or thunders, who continue it, hence the long duration of 
the peals. The Indian says it is the young birds, or thunders, 
that do the mischief; they are like the young mischievous men 

* * Rig- Veda,' tr. by MaxMuller, vol. i. (Hymns to Maruts) ; "Welcker, 'Griecli. 
Gotterl.' vol. iii. p. 67 ; Cox, ' Mythology of Aryan Nations,' vol. ii. ch. v. 

2 Grimm, *D. M.' pp. 12G, 599, 894; Hunt, 'Pop. Rom.' 1st ser. p. xix. ; 
Baring- Gould, 'Book of Werewolves, ' p. 101 ; see 'Myths of the Middle Ages,' 
p. 25 ; Wuttke, ' Deutsche Volksaberglaube, ' pp. 13, 236; Monnier, * Traditions,' 
pp. 75, etc., 741, 747. 


who will not listen to good counsel. The old thunder or bird is 
wise and good, and does not kill anybody, nor do any kind of 
mischief. Descending southward to Central America, there is 
found mention of the bird Voc, the messenger of Hiu'akan, the 
Tempest-god (whose name has been adopted in European lan- 
guages as huracano, ouragan, hurricane) of the Lightning and 
of the Thunder. So among Caribs, Brazilians, Harvey Islanders 
and Karens, Bechuanas and Basutos, we find legends of a flap- 
ping or flashing Thunder-bird, which seem simply to translate 
into myth the thought of thunder and lightning descending 
from the upper regions of the air, the home of the eagle and 
the vulture.^ 

The Heaven-god dwells in the regions of the sky, and thus 
what form could be fitter for him and for his messengers than 
the likeness of a bird? But to cause the ground to quake 
beneath our feet, a being of quite different nature is needed, 
and accordingly the office of supporting the solid earth is given 
in various countries to various monstrous creatures, human or 
animal in character, who make their office manifest from time 
to time by a shake given in negligence or sport or anger to their 
burden. Wherever earthquakes are felt, we are likely to find a 
version of the great myth of the Earth-bearer. Thus in Poly- 
nesia the Tongans say that Maui upholds the earth on his 
prostrate body, and when he tries to turn over into an easier 
posture there is an earthquake, and the people shout and beat 
the ground with sticks to make him lie still. Another version 
forms part of the interesting myth lately mentioned, which 
connects the under-world whither the sun descends at night, 
with the region of subterranean volcanic fire and of earthquake. 
The old Maui lay by his fire in the dead-land of Bulotu, when 
his grandson Maui came down by the cavern entrance ; the 

1 Pr. Max. V. Wied, 'Reise in IST. A.' vol. i. pp. 446, 455 ; vol. ii. pp. 152, 223 ; 
Sir Alex. Mackenzie, 'Voyages,' p. cxvii. ; Irving, ' Astoria, ' vol. ii. cli. xxii. ; 
Le Jeune, op. cit. 1634, p. 26 ; Schoolcraft, ' Indian Tribes,' part iii. p. 233 ; 
*Algic Res.' vol. ii. jjp. 114-6, 199; Catlin, vol. ii. p. 164; Brasseur, * Popol 
Vuh,' p. 71 and Index, 'Hurakan ; ' J. G. Miiller, * Amer. UrreL' pp. 222, 271 ; 
Ellis, ' Polyn. Res.' vol. ii. p. 417; Jno. Williams, * Missionary Enterprise,' 
p. 93 ; Mason, 1. c. p. 217 ; Moffat, 'South Africa,' p. 338 ; Casalis, 'Basutos,' 
p. 266 ; Callaway, 'Religion of Amazulu,' p. 119. 


young Maui carried off the fire, they wrestled, the old Maui was 
overcome, and has lain there bruised and drowsy ever since, 
underneath the earth, which quakes when he turns over in his 
sleep.^ In Celebes we hear of the world-supporting Hog, who rubs 
himself against a tree, and then there is an earthquake.^ Among 
the Indians of North America, it is said that earthquakes come 
of the movement of the great world-bearing Tortoise. Now this 
Tortoise seems but a m3^thic picture of the Earth itself, and thus 
the story only expresses in mythic phrase the very fact that the 
earth quakes ; the meaning is but one degree less distinct than 
among the Caribs, who say when there is an earthquake that 
their Mother Earth is dancing.^ Among the higher races of the 
continent, such ideas remain little changed in nature ; the Tlas- 
calans said that the tired world-supporting deities shifting their 
burden to a new relay caused the earthquake ; * the Chibchas 
said it was their god Chibchacum moving the earth from 
shoulder to shoulder. ^ The myth ranges in Asia through as 
wide a stretch of culture. The Kamchadals tell of Tuil the 
Earthquake-god, who sledges below ground, and when his dog 
shakes off fleas or snow there is an earthquake ; ^ Ta Ywa, the 
solar hero of the Karens, set Shie-oo beneath the earth to carry 
it, and there is an earthquake when he moves. "^ The world- 
bearing elephants of the Hindus, the world-supporting frog of 
the Mongol Lamas, the world-bull of the Moslems, the gigantic 
Omophore of the Manichsean cosmology, are all creatures who 
carry the earth on their backs or heads, and shake it when they 
stretch or shift. ^ Thus in European mythology the Scandi- 
navian Loki, strapped down with thongs of iron in his subter- 
ranean cavern, writhes when the overhanging serpent drops 

^ Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 120 ; S. S. Farmer, 'Tonga,' p. 135 ; Scliirren, 
pp. 35-7. 

2 * Journ. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. ii. p. 837. 

3 J. G. MiiUer, 'Amer. TJrrelig.' pp. 61, 122. 
^ Brasseiir, * Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 482. 

* Pouchet, 'Plurality of Races,' p. 2. 

« Stellar, ' Kamtschatka,' p. 267. 
• 7 Mason, 'Karens,' 1. c. p. 182. 

8 Bell, 'Tr. in Asia' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 369; Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' 
vol. ii. p. 168 ; Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 21 ; see Latham, 
*Descr. Eth.' vol. ii. p. 171 ; Beausobre, 'Manichee,' vol. i. p. 243. . 


venom on him ; or Prometheus struggles, beneath the earth to 
break his bonds ; or the Lettish Drebkuls or Poseidon the 
Earth-shaker makes the ground rock beneath men's feet. ^ 
From thorough myths of imagination such as most of these, it 
may be sometimes possible to distinguish philosophic myths 
like them in form, but ^vhich appear to be attempts at serious 
explanation without even a metaphor. The Japanese think 
that earthquakes are caused by huge whales creeping under- 
ground, having been probably led to this idea by finding the 
fossil bones which seem the remains of such subterranean 
monsters, just as we know that the Siberians who find in the 
ground the mammoth-bones and tusks, account for them as 
belonging to huge burrowing beasts, and by force of this belief, 
have brought themselves to think they can sometimes see the 
earth heave and sink as the monsters crawl belovf. Thus, in 
investigating the earthquake-myths of the world, it appears that 
two jDi'ocesses, the translation into mythic language of the 
phenomenon itself, and the crude scientific theory to account for 
it by a real moving animal underground, may result in legends 
of very striking similarity." 

In thus surveying the mythic wouders of heaven and earth, 
sun, moon, and stars, wind, thunder, and earthquake, it is pos- 
sible to set out in investigation under conditions of actual cer- 
tainty. So long as such beings as Heaven or Sun are consciously 
talked of in mythic language, the meaning of their legends is 
open to no question, and the actions ascribed to them will as a 
rule be natural and apposite. But when the phenomena of 
nature take a more anthropomorphic form, and become identi- 
fied with personal gods and heroes, and when in after times 
these beings, losing their first consciousness of origin, become 
centres round which floating fancies cluster, then their sense 
becomes obscure and con'upt, and the consistency of their 
earlier character must no longer be demanded. In fact, the 
unreasonable expectation of such consistency in nature-myths, 
after they have passed into what may be called their heroic 

1 Edda, 'Gylfaginning,' 50 ; Grimm, *D. M.' p. 777, etc. 
- Kaempfer, ' Japan,' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 684 ; see mammoth-myths in 
' Early Hist, of Mankind,' p. 315. 


stage, is one of the mytliologist's most damaging errors. The 

present examination of nature-myths has mostly taken them in 

their primitive and unmistakeable condition, and has only been 

in some degree extended to include closely corresponding legends 

in a less easil}^ interpretable state. It has lain beyond my 

scope to enter into any systematic discussion of the views of 

Grimm, Grote, Max Miiller, Kuhn, Schirren, Cox, Breal, Dasent, 

Kelly, and ouher mythologists. Even, the outlines here sketched 

out have been purposely left without filling in surrounding 

detail which might confuse their shape, although this strictness 

has caused th e neglect of many a tempting hint to work out 

episode after episode, by tracing their relation to the myths of 

far-off times and lands. It has rather been my object to bring 

prominently into view the nature-mythology of the lower races, 

that their cle ar and fresh mythic conceptions may serve as a 

basis in study ing the nature-myths of the world at large. The 

evidence and interpretation here brought forward, imperfect as 

they are, seem to countenance a strong opinion as to the \ 

historical development of legends which describe in personal 

shape the life of nature. The state of mind to which such 

imaginative fictions belong is found in full vigour in the savage 

condition of m&mkind, its growth and inheritance continue into i 

the higher cultu re of barbarous or half-civilized nations, and at 

last in the civilized world its effects pass more and more from 

realized belief into fanciful, affected, and even artificial poetry.' 


MYTHOLOGY {continued.) 

Philosophical Myths: inferences become pseudo-history — Geological Myths — 
Effect of doctrine of Miracles on Mythology— Magnetic Mountain — Myths of 
relation of Apes to Men by development or degeneration— Ethnological im- 
port of myths of Ape-men, Men with tails, Men of the \voods — Myths of 
Error, Perversion, and Exaggeration : stories of Giants, r>warfs, and Mon- 
strous Tribes of men — Fanciful explanatory Myths — Myths attached to 
legendary or historical Personages — Etymological Myths on^. names of places 
and persons — Eponymic Myths on names of tribes, nation's, countries, &c. ; 
their ethnological import — Pragmatic Myths by realization of metaphors and 
ideas — Allegory — Beast-Fable — Conclusion. 

Although the attempt to reduce to rule and system the 
whole domain of mythology would as yet be rash and premature, 
yet the piecemeal invasion of one mythic provinc^e after another 
proves feasible and profitable. Having discuss' ad the theory of 
nature-myths, it is worth while to gain in other directions 
glimpses of the crude and child-like thought, of mankind, not 
arranged in abstract doctrines, but embodieri by mythic fancy. 
We shall find the result in masses of legenr^is, full of interest as 
bearing on the early history of opinion , and which may be 
roughly classified under the following 'neadings : myths philo- 
I sophical or explanatory, myths based on real descriptions mis- 
understood, exaggerated, or pervert^ed, myths attributing inferred 
events to legendary or historir:,al personages, myths based on 
realization of fanciful metapl lor, and myths made or adapted to 
convey moral or social or "'political instruction. 

Man's craving to kr.ow the causes at work in each event he 
witnesses, the reasor.iS why each state of things he surveys is 
such as it is and no other, is no product of high civilization, but 
a characteristic of his race down to its lowest stages. Among 


rude savages it is already an intellectual appetite whose satis- 
faction claims many of the moments not engrossed by war or 
sport, food or sleep. Even to the Botocudo or Australian, 
scientific speculation has its germ in actual experience : he has 
learnt to do definite acts that definite results may follow, to see 
other acts done and their results following in course, to make 
inference from the result back to the previous action, and to 
find his inference verified in fact. When one day he has seen 
a deer or a kangaroo leave footprints in the soft ground, and the 
next day he has found new footprints and inferred that such an 
animal made them, and has followed up the track and killed 
the game, then he knows that he has reconstructed a history of 
past events by inference from their results. But in the early 
stages of knowledg^e the confusion is extreme between actual 
tradition of events, and ideal reconstruction of them. To this 
day there go about the world endless stories told as matter of 
known reality, but which a critical examination shows to be 
mere inferences, often utterly illusory ones, from facts which 
have stimulated the invention of some curious enquirer. Thus 
a writer in the Asiatick Besearches of some eighty years ago 
relates the following account of the Andaman islanders, as a 
historical fact of which he had been informed : " Shortly after 
the Portuguese had discovered the passage to India round the 
Cape of Good Hope, one of their ships, on board of which were a 
number of Mozambique negroes, was lost on the Andaman 
islands, which were till then uninhabited. The blacks remained 
in the island and settled it : the Europeans made a small 
shallop in which they sailed to Pegu." Many readers must 
have had their interest excited by this curious story, but at the 
first touch of fact it dissolves into a philosophic myth, made by 
the easy transition from what might have been to what w^as. 
So far from the islands having been uninhabited at the time of 
Vasco de Gama's voyage, their population of naked blacks with 
frizzled hair had been described six hundred years earlier, and 
the story, which sounded reasonable to people puzzled by the 
appearance of a black population in the Andaman islands, is of 
course repudiated by ethnologists aware of the wide distribution 
of the negroid Papuans, really so distinct from any race of 


African negroes.^ Not long since, I met with a very perfect 
myth of this kind. In a brick field near London, there had 
been found a number of fossil elephant bones, and soon after- 
wards a story was in circulation in the neighbourhood somewhat 
in this shape : '' A few years ago, one of Wombwell's caravans 
was here, an elephant died, and they buried him in the field, 
and now the scientific gentlemen have found his bones, and 
think they have got a prse-Adamite elephant." It seemed 
almost cruel to spoil this ingenious myth by pointing out that 
such a prize as a living mammoth was beyond the resources 
even of Wombwell's menagerie. But so exactly does such a 
story explain the facts to minds not troubled with nice dis- 
tinctions between existing and extinct species of elephants 
that it was on another occasion invented elsewhere under 
similar circumstances. This was at Oxford, where Mr. Buckland 
found the story of the Wombwell's caravan and dead elephant 
current to explain a similar find of fossil bones.^ Such explana- 
tions of the finding of fossils are easily devised and used to 
be freely made, as when fossil bones found in the Alps were 
set down to Hannibal's elephants, or when a petrified oyster- 
shell near the Mont Cenis sets Voltaire reflecting on the crowd 
of pilgrims on their way to Rome, or when theologians supposed 
such shells on mountains to have been left on their slopes and 
summits by a rising deluge. Such theoretical explanations are 
unimpeachable in their philosophic spirit, until further observa- 
tion may prove them to be unsound. Their disastrous effect on 
the historic conscience of mankind only begins when the in- 
ference is turned upside down, to be told as a recorded fact. 

In this connexion brief notice may be taken of the doctrine 
of miracles in its special bearing on mythology. The mythic 
wonder-episodes related by a savage tale-teller, the amazing 
superhuman feats of his gods and heroes, are often to his mind 
miracles in the original popular sense of the word, that is, 
they are strange and marvellous events ; but they are not to his 

^ Hamilton in 'As. Res.' vol. ii. p. 344; Colebrookc, ibid. vol. iv. p. 385; 
Earl in 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. iii. p. 682; vol. iv. p. 9. See Renaudot, 
* Travels of Two Maliommedans,' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 183. 

2 F. Buckland, ' Curiosities of Nat. Hist,' 3rd Series, vol. ii. p. 39. 


mind miracles in a frequent modern sense of the word, that is, 
they are not violations or supersessions of recognized laws of 
nature. Exceptio probat regulam; to acknowledge anything 
as an exception is to imply the rule it departs from ; but the 
savage recognizes neither rule nor exception. Yet a European 
hearer, brought up to use a different canon of evidence, will 
calmly reject this savage's most revered ancestral traditions, 
simply on the ground that they relate events which are impos- 
sible. The ordinary standards of possibility, as applied to the 
credibility of tradition, have indeed changed vastly in the 
course of culture through its savage, barbaric, and civilized 
stages. What concerns us here is that there is an important 
department of legend which this change in public opinion, 
generally so resistless, left to a great extent unaltered. In the 
middle ages the long-accepted practice rose to its height, of 
allowing the mere assertion of supernatural influence by angels , 
or devils, saints or sorcerers, to override the rules of evidence \ 
and the results of experience. The consequence was that the \ 
doctrine of miracles became as it were a bridge along which 
mythology travelled from the lower into the higher culture. 
Principles of myth-formation belonging properly to the mental 
state of the savage, were by its aid continued in strong action 
in the civilized world. Mythic episodes which Europeans would 
have rejected contemptuously if told of savage deities or heroes, 
only required to be adapted to appropriate local details, and to ,'' 
be set forth as miracles in the life of some superhuman per- / 
sonage, to obtain as of old a place of credit and honour in 

From the enormous mass of available instances in proof of 

this, let us take two cases belonging to the class of geological 

myths. The first is the v/ell-known legend of St. Patrick and 

the serpents. It is thus given by Dr. Andrew Boorde in his 

description of Ireland and the Irish in Henry VIII.'s time. 

" Yet in lerland is stupendyous thynges ; for there is neyther 

'^s nor venymus wormes. There is no Adder, nor Snake, nor 

' ^, nor Lyzerd, nor no Euyt, nor none such lyke. I haue 

tones the whiche haue had the forme and shap of a snake 

iher venimus wormes. And the people of the countre 


sayth that suche stones were wormes, and they were turned 
into stones by the power of God and the prayers of saynt 
Patryk. And Englysh marchauntes of England do fetch of the 
erth of Irlonde to caste in their gardens, to kepe out and to 
kyll venimous wormes."-^ In treating this passage, the first 
step is to separate joieces of imported foreign myth, belonging 
properly not to Ireland, but to islands of the Mediterranean ; 
the story of the earth of the island of Krete being fatal to 
venomous serpents is to be found in ^lian,^ and St. Honoratus 
clearing the snakes from his island (one of the Lerins opposite 
Cannes) seems to take precedence of the Irish saint. What is 
left after these deductions is a philosophic myth accounting 
for the existence of fossil ammonites as petrified snakes, to 
which myth a historical position is given by claiming it as a 
,^^ miracle, and ascribing it to St. Patrick. The_second myth is 
valuable _for^J;he_histoTk£^ which it incidentally pre- 

serves. At the celebrated ruins of the temple of Jupiter 
Serapis at Pozzuoli, the ancient Puteoli, the marble columns, 
encircled half-way up by borings of lithodomi, stand to prove 
that the ground of the temple must have been formerly sub- 
merged many feet below the sea, and afterwards upheaved 
to become again dry land. History is remarkably silent as 
to the events demonstrated by this remarkable geological evi- 
dence ; between the recorded adornment of the temple by 
Roman emperors from the second to the third century, and the 
mention of its existence in ruins in the 16th century, no 
documentary information was till lately recognized. It has 
now been pointed out by Mr. Tuckett that a passage in the 
Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul, dating apparently more or 
less before the end of the 9th century, mentions the subsidence 
of the temple, ascribing it to a miracle of St. Paul. The legend is 
as follows : "And when he (Paul) came out of Messina he sailed 
to Didymus, and remained there one night. And having sailed 
thence, he came to Pontiole (Puteoli) on the second day. And 
Dioscorus the shipmaster, who brought him to Syracuse, r 

1 Andrew Boorde, ' Introduction of Knowledge,' ed. by F. J. Furnivi. 
Eng. Text Soc. 1870, p. 133. 

2 Mlian. De Nat. Animal, v, 2, see 8. 


pathizing with Paul because he had delivered his son from 
death, having left his own ship in Syracuse, accompanied him 
to Pontiole. And some of Peter's disciples having been found 
there, and having received Paul, exhorted him to stay with 
them. And he stayed a week in hiding, because of the com- 
mand of Cgesar (that he should be put to death). And all the 
toparchs were waiting to seize and kill him. But Dioscorus 
the shipmaster, being himself also bald, wearing his shipmaster's 
dress, and speaking boldly, on the first day went out into the city 
of Pontiole. Thinking therefore that he was Paul, they seized 

him and beheaded him, and sent his head to Csesar And 

Paul, being in Pontiole, and having heard that Dioscorus had 
been beheaded, being grieved with great grief, gazing into the 
height of the heaven, said : ' Lord Almighty in Heaven, who 
hast appeared to me in every place whither I have gone on 
account of Thine only-begotten Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, 
punish this city, and bring out all who have believed in God 
and followed His word.' He said to them, therefore, ^Follow 
me.' And going forth from Pontiole with those who had be- 
lieved in the word of God, they came to a place called Baias 
(Baiae), and looking up with their eyes, they all see that city 
called Pontiole sunk into the sea-shore about one fathom ; and 
there it is until this day, for a remembrance, under the sea. 
. . . And those who had been saved out of the city of 
Pontiole, that had been swallowed up, reported to Ca3sar in Rome 
that Pontiole had been swallowed up with all its multitude."^ 

Episodes of popular myth, which are often items of the 
serious belief of the times they belong to, may serve as im- 
portant records of intellectual history. As an example belong- 
ing to the class of philosophical or explanatory myths, let us 
glance at an Arabian Nights' story, which at first sight may 
seem an effort of the wildest imagination, but which is never- 
theless traceable to a scientific origin; this is the story of the 
Magnetic Mountain. The Third Kalenter relates in his tale 
hov/ a contrary wind drove his ships into a strange sea, and 

^ * Acts of Peter and Paul ' trans, by A. Walker, in Ante-Nicene Library, 
vol. xvi. p. 257 ; F. F. Tuckettin 'Nature,' Oct. 20, 1870. See Lyell, 'Principles 
of Geology,' ch. xxx. ; Phillips, 'Vesuvius,' p. 244. 

VOL. r. z 


there, by the attraction of their nails and other ironwork, they 
were violently drawn towards a mountain of black loadstone, 
till at last the iron flew out to the mountain, and the ships 
went to pieces in the surf The episode is older than the date 
when the ' Thousand and One Nights ' were edited. When, in 
Henry of Veldeck's 12th century poem, Duke Ernest and his 
companions sail into the Klebermeer, they see the rock that is 
called Magnes, and are themselves dragged in below it among 
"many a work of keels," whose masts stand like a forest.^ 
Turning from tale-tellers to grave geographers and travellers 
who talk of the loadstone mountain, we find El Kazwini, like 
Serapion before him, believing such boats as may be still seen 
in Ceylon, pegged and sewn without metal nails, to be so built 
lest the magnetic rock should attract them from their course at 
sea. This quaint notion is to be found in Sir John Mandeville : 
" In an isle clept Crues, ben schippes withouten nayles of iren, 
or bonds, for the rockes of the adamandes ; for they ben alle 
fuUe there aboute in that see, that it is marveyle to spaken of. 
And gif a schipp passed by the marches, and hadde either iren 
bandes or iren nayles, anon he sholde ben perishet. For the 
adamande of this kinde draws the iren to him ; and so wolde it 
draw to him the schipp, because of the iren ; that he sholde 
never departen fro it, ne never go thens."^ Now it seems that 
accounts of the magnetic mountain have been given not only 
as belonging to the southern seas, but also to the north, and 
that men have connected with such notions the pointing of the 
magnetic needle, as Sir Thomas Browne says, ''ascribing thereto 
the cause of the needle's direction, and conceeving the effluxions 
from these mountains and rocks invite the lilly toward the 
north." ^ On this evidence we have, I think, fair ground for 
supposing that hypotheses of polar magnetic mountains were first 
devised to explain the action of the compass, and that these 

^ Lane, 'Thousand and One K' vol. i. pp. 161, 217 ; voL iii. p. 78; Hole, 
'Remarks on the Ar. N.'p. 104; Heinrich von Veldeck, ' Herzog Ernst's von 
l^ayern Erholmng, etc' ed. Rixner, Amberg 1830, p. 65; see Ludlow, 'Popular 
Epics of Middle Ages,' p. 221. 

'^ Sir John Maundevile, ' Voiage and Travaile.' 

3 Sir Thomas Browne, 'Vulgar Errours,' ii. 3. 


gave rise to stories of such mountains exerting what would be 
considered their proper effect on the iron of passing ships. The 
argument is clenched by the considera^tion that Europeans, who 
colloquially say the needle points to the north, naturally re- 
quired their loadstone mountain in high northern latitudes, while 
on the other hand it was as natural that Orientals should place 
this wondrous rock in the south, for they say it is to the 
south that the needle points. The conception of magnetism 
among peoples who had not reached the idea of double polarity 
may be gathered from the following quaint remarks in the I7th 
century cyclopaedia of the Chinese emperor Kang-hi. "I now 
hear the Europeans say it is towards the North pole that the 
compass turns ; the ancients said it was toward the South ; 
which have judged most rightly? Since neither give any reason 
why, we come to no more with the one side than wdth the 
other. But the ancients are the earlier in date, and the farther 
I go the more I perceive that they understood the mechanism 
of nature. All movement languishes and dies in proportion as 
it approaches the north ; it is hard to believe it to be from 
thence that the movement of the magnetic needle comes." ^ 

To suppose that theories of a relation between man and the 
lower mammalia are only a product of advanced science, would 
be an extreme mistake. Even at low levels of culture, men 
addicted to speculative philosoph}^ have been led to account for 
the resemblance between apes and themselves by solutions 
satisfactory to their own minds, but which we must class as 
philosophic myths. Among these, stories which embody the 
thought of an ujDward change from ape to man, more or less 
approaching the last-century theory of development, are to be 
found side by side with others which in the converse way 
account for apes as degenerate from a previous human state. 

Central American mythology works out the idea that monkeys 

' * Memoires cone. I'Hist, etc., ties Chinois,' vol. iv. p. 457. Compare the 
story of the magnetic (?) horseman in 'Thousand and One N.' vol. iii. p. 119, with 
the old Chinese mention of magnetic cars with a moveable-armed pointing figure, 
A. V. Humboldt, ' Asie Centrale,' vol. i. p. xl. ; Goguet, vol. iii. p. 284. (Tho 
loadstone mountain has its power from a horseman on the top with brazen 

z 2 


were once a human race.^ In Sou di -East Africa, Father Dos- 
Santos remarked long since that '' they hold that the apes 
were anciently men and women, iind thus they call them in 
their tongue the first people." The Zulus still tell the tale of 
an Amafeme tribe who became baboons. They were an idle 
race who did not like to dig, but wished to eat at other people's 
houses, saying, " We shall live, although we do not dig, if we 
eat the food of those who cultivate the soil." So the chief of 
that place, of the house of Tusi, assembled the tribe, and they 
prepared food and went out into the wilderness. They fastened 
on behind them the handles of their now useless digging picks,, 
these grew and became tails, hair made its appearance on their 
bodies, their foreheads became overhanging, and so tliey became 
baboons, who are still called " Tusi's men." ^ Mr. Kingsley's- 
story of the great and famous nation of the Doasyoulikes, who 
degenerated by natural selection into gorillas, is the civilized 
counterpart of this savage myth. Or monkeys may be trans- 
formed aborigines, as the Mbocobis relate in South America : 
in the great conflagration of their forests a man and woman 
climbed a tree for refusre from the fierv delus^e, but the flames, 
singed their faces and they became apes.'^ Among more civi- 
lized nations these fancies have graphic representatives in 
Moslem legends, of which one is as follows : — There was a 
Jewish city which stood by a river full of fish, but the cunning 
creatures, noticing the habits of the citizens, ventured freely in 
sight on the Sabbath, though they carefully kept away on work- 
ing-days. At last the temptation was too strong for the Jewish 
fishermen, but they paid dearly for a few days' fine sport by 
being miraculously turned into apes as a punishment for 
Sabbath -breaking. In after times, when Solomon passed 
through the Valley of Apes, between Jerusalem and Mareb,, 

^ Brasseur, ' Popol Vuh,' pp. 23-31. Compare tliis Central American mytli 
of the ancient senseless mannikins who became monkeys, with a PottoAvatomi 
legend in Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 320. 

- Dos Santos, 'Ethiopia Oriental; Evora 1609, parti, chap. ix. ; Callaway, 
*Ziilu Tales,' vol. i. p. 177. See also Burton, 'Footsteps in E. Afr.' p. 274;. 
Waitz, 'Anthropologie,' vol. ii. p. 17S (W. Afr.). 

^ D'Orbigny, 'L'Honime Americain,' vol. ii. p. 102. 


lie received from their descendants, monkeys living in houses 
and dressed hke men, an account of their strange histor3\^ So, 
in classic times, Jove had chastised the treacherous race of the 
Cercopes ; he took from them the use of tongues, born but 
to perjure, leaving them to bewail in hoarse cries their fate, 
transformed into the hairy apes of the PithecusaB, like and yet 
unlike the men they had been : — 

' ' In deforme viros animal mutavit, ut idem 
Dissimiles homini possent similesqiie yideri." ^ 

Turning from degeneration to development, it is found that 
legends of the descent of human tribes from apes are espe- 
cially applied to races despised as low and beast-like by some 
higher neighbouring people, and the low race may even ac- 
knowledsre the humiliating- explanation. Thus the aboriginal 
features of the robber-caste of the Marawars of South India are 
the justification for their alleged descent from Rama's monkeys, 
as for the like genealogy of the Kathkuri, or catechu-gatherers, 
which these small, dark, low-browed, curly-haired tribes ac- 
tually themselves believe in. The Jaitwas of Rajputana, a tribe 
reckoned politically as Rajputs, nevertheless trace their descent 
from the monkey-god Hanuman, and confirm it by alleging 
that their princes still bear its evidence in a tail-like prolonga- 
tion of the spine ; a tradition which has probably a real ethno- 
logical meaning, pointing out the Jaitwas as of non-Aryan 
race.^ Wild tribes of the Malay peninsula, looked down on as 
lower animals by the more warlike and civilized Malays, have 
among them traditions of their own descent from a pair of 
the " unka puteh," or " white monkeys," who reared their young 
ones and sent them into the plains, and there they perfected so 
well that they and their descendants became men, but those 
who returned to the mountains still remained apes.* Thus 

^ Weil, * Bibl. Leg. der Muselnianner,' p. 267 ; Lane, 'Thousand and One N.' 
vol. iii. p. 350 ; Burton, 'El Medinah, etc.' vol. ii. p. 343. 

^ Ovid, * Metamm.' xiv. 89-100 ; Welcker, ' Griechische Gotteiiehre,' vol. iii. 
p. 108. 

3 Campbell in ' Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1866, part ii. p. 132 ; Latliara, 'Descr. 
Eth.' vol. ii. p. 456 ; Tod, 'Annals of Rajasthan,' vol. i. p. 114. 

^ Bourien in *Tr. Eth. See.' vol. iii. p. 73 ; see 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii, 
p. 271. 


Buddhist legend relates the origin of the flat-nosed, im couth 
tribes of Tibet, offspring of two miraculous apes, transformed 
to people the snow-kingdom. Taught to till the ground, when 
they had grown corn and eaten it, their tails and hair gradually- 
disappeared, they began to speak, became men, and clothed 
themselves with leaves. The population grew closer, the land 
was more and more cultivated, and at last a prince of the race of 
Sakya, driven from his home in India, united their isolated tribes 
into a single kingdom.^ In these traditions the development 
from ape to man is considered to have come in successive gene- 
rations, but the negroes are said to attain the result in the 
individual, by way of metempsychosis. Froebel speaks of negro 
slaves in the United States believing that in the next world 
they shall be white men and free, nor is there anything 
strange in their cherishing a hope so prevalent among their 
kindred in West Africa. But from this the traveller goes on to 
quote another story, which, if not too good to be true, is a 
theory of upward and downward development almost thorough 
enough for a Buddhist philosopher. He says, " A German whom 
I met here told me that the blacks believe the damned amono- 
the negroes to become monkeys ; but if in this state they 
behave well, they are advanced to the state of a negro again, 
and bliss is eventually possible to them, consisting in their 
turning white, becoming winged, and so on." ^ 

To understand these stories (and they are worth some at- 
tention for the ethnological hints they contain), it is necessary 
that we should discard the results of modern scientific zoology, 
and bring our minds back to a ruder condition of knowledge. 
The myths of human degeneration and development have 
much more in common with the speculations of Lord Mon- 
boddo than with the anatomical arguments of Professor Hux- 
ley. On the one hand, uncivilized men deliberately assign 
to apes an amount of human quality which to modern natu- 

^ Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 435; ' Meiiscli,' vol. iii. pp. 347, 349, 
387; Koeppen, vol. ii. p. 44; J. J. Sclimidt, ' Yolker Mittel-Asiens,' p. 210. 

2 Froebel, 'Central America,' p. 220 ; see Bosnian, 'Guinea' in Pinkerton, 
vol. xvi. p. 401. For other traditions of human descent from apes, see Farrar, 
* Chapters on Language,' p. 45. 


ralists is simply ridiculous. Everyone lias heard the story of 
the negroes declaring that apes really can speak, but judiciously 
hold their tongues lest they should be made to work ; but it is 
not so generally known that this is found as serious matter 
of belief in several distant regions — West Africa, Madagascar, 
South America, &c. — where monkeys or apes are found.^ 
With this goes another widely-spread anthropoid story, which 
relates how great apes like the gorilla and the orang-utan carry 
off women to their homes in the woods, much as the Apaches 
and Comanches of our own time carry off to their prairies the 
women of North Mexico.^ And on the other hand, popular 
opinion has under-estimated the man as much as it has over- 
estimated the monkey. We know how sailors and emigrants 
can look on savages as senseless, ape-like brutes, and how some 
writers on anthropology have contrived to make out of the 
moderate intellectual difference between an Englishman and a 
negro something equivalent to the immense interval between a 
negro and a gorilla. Thus we can have no difficulty in under- 
standing how savages may seem mere apes to the eyes of men 
who hunt them like v/ild beasts in the forests, who can only 
hear in their language a sort of irrational gurgling and barking, 
and who fail totally to appreciate the real culture which better 
acquaintance always shows among the rudest tribes of man. 
It is well known that when Sanskrit legend tells of the apes 
who fought in the army of King Hanuman, it really refers to 
those aborigines of the land who were driven by the Aryan 
invaders to the hills and jungles, and whose descendants are 
known to us as Bhils, Kols, Sonthals, and the like, rude tribes 
such as the Hindu still speaks of as '' monkey-people." ^ One 

* Bosman, 'Guinea,' p. 440; Waitz, vol. ii. p. 178; Cauche, ' Eelation de 
Madagascar,' p. 127; Dobrizhoffer, 'Abipones,' vol. i. p. 288 ; Bastian, 'Menscli,' 
vol. ii. p. 44 ; Pouchet, 'Plurality of Human Pace,' p. 22. 

2 Monboddo, 'Origin and Progress of Lang.' 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 277; Du Chaillu, 
* Equatorial Africa,' p. 61 ; St. John, * Forests of Par East,' vol. i. p. 17 ; vol. ii. 
p. 239. 

^ Max Miiller in Bunsen, 'Phil. Univ. Hist.' vol. i. p. 340; *Journ. As. Soc. 
Bengal,' vol. xxiv. p. 207. See Marsden in 'As. Res.' vol. iv. p. 226 ; Fitch in 
Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 415; Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 465; vol. ii. 
p. 201. 


of the most perfect identifications of the savage and the 
monkey in Hindustan is the following description of the hun- 
onaniLS, or "man of the woods" (Sanskr. vana=wood, 
"iuanusha =ma,xi). " The bunmanus is an animal of the 
monkey kind. His face has a near resemblance to the 
human ; he has no tail, and walks erect. The skin of his 
body is black, and slightly covered with hair." That this 
description really applies not to apes, but to the dark-skinned, 
non-Aryan aborigines of the land, appears further in the enu- 
meration of the local dialects of Hindustan, to v/hich, it is said, 
" may be added the jargon of the bunmanus, or wild men of 
the woods." ^ In the islands of the Indian Archipelago, whose 
tropical forests swarm both with high apes and low savages, the 
confusion between the two in the minds of the half-civilized 
inhabitants becomes most inextricable. There is a well-known 
Hindu fable in the Hitopadesa, which relates as a warning to 
stupid imitators the fate of the ape who imitated the carpenter, 
and was caught in the cleft when he pulled out the wedge ; this 
fable has come to be told in Sumatra as a real story of one of the 
indigenous savages of the island.^ It is to rude forest-men that 
the Malays habitually give the name of orang-utan, i. e., " man of 
the woods." But in Borneo this term is applied to the miyas ape, 
whence we have learnt to call this creature the orang-utan, and 
the Malays themselves are knowm to give the name in one and 
the same district to both the savage and the ape. ^ This term 
" man of the woods " extends far beyond Hindu and Malay 
limits. The Siamese talk of the KJion pa, " men of the wood," 
meaning apes ; ^ the Brazilians of Cauiari, or " wood-men," 
meaning a certain savage tribe.^ The name of the Bosjesonan, 
so amusingly mispronounced by Englishmen, as though it were 

^ Ayecii Akbaree, trans, by Gladwin ; * Report of Etlmological Committee 
Jubbulpore Exhibition, 1866-7,' part i. p. 3. 

2 Marsden, * Sumatra,' p. 41. 

^ Logan in 'Journ. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. i. p. 246; vol. iii. p. 490; Thomson, 
iMd. vol. i. p. 350 ; Crawfurd, ibid, vol iv. p. 186. 

^ Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 123 ; vol. iii. p. 435. See the mention of 
the han-onanush in Knmaon and Nepal, Campbell; 'Ethnology of India,' in * Joiirn. 
As. Soc. Bengal,' 1866, part ii. p. 46. 

^ Martins, "Ethnog. Arner.' vol. i. pp. 425, 471. 


some outlandish native word, is merely the Datch equivalent 
for Bush-man, "man of the woods or bush." ^ In our own 
lanofuaofe the "homo silvaticus'' or "forest-man " has become 
the " salvage man " or savage. European opinion of the native 
tribes of the New World may be judged of by the fact that, in 
1537, Pope Pan] III. had to make express statement that these 
Indians were really men (attendentes Indos ipsos utpote veros 
homines).^ Thus there is little cause to wonder at the circula- 
tion of stories of ape-men in South America, and at there being 
some indefiniteness in the local accounts of the selvage or 
" savage," that hairy wild man of the woods ^vho, it is said, 
lives in the trees, and sometimes carries off the native women.^ 
The most perfect of these mystifications is to be found in a 
Portuguese manuscript quoted in the account of Castelnau's 
expedition, and giving, in all seriousness, the following account 
of the people called Cuatas : " This populous nation dwells east 
of the Juruena, in the neighbourhood of the rivers San Joao 
and San Thome, advancing even to the confluence of the 
Juruena and the Arinos. It is a very rema^rkable fact that 
the Indians composing it walk naturally like the quadrupeds, 
with their hands on the ground ; they have the belly, breast, 
arms, and legs covered with hair, and are of small stature ; they 
are fierce, and use their teeth as w^eapons ; they sleep on the 
ground, or among the branches of trees ; they have no industry, 
nor agriculture, and live only on fruits, wild roots, and fish."* 
The writer of this record shows no symptom of being aware 
that cuata or coata is the name of the large black Simla Panis- 
cus, and that he has been really describing, not a tribe of In- 
dians, but a species of apes. 

Various reasons may have led to the growth of another 
quaint group of legends, describing human tribes with tails 

^ Its analogue is hosjeshok^ "bush-goat," the African antelope. The derivation 
of the Bosjesman's name from his nest-like shelter in a bush, given by Kolben 
nnd others since, is newer and far-fetched. 

' Martius, vol. i. 50. 

3 Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. v. p. 81 ; Southcy, 'Brazil,' vol. i. p. xxx. ; 
Bates, 'Amazons,' vol. i. p. 73 ; vol. ii. p. 204. 

^ Castelnau, 'Exp. dans I'Amer. du Sud,' voJ. iii. p. 118. See Martius, vol. 
1. pp. 248, 414, 563, 633. 


like beasts. To people who at once believe monkeys a kind 
cf savages, and savages a kind of monkej^s, men with tails are 
creatures coming under both definitions. Thus the Homo cau- 
datus, or satyr, often appears in popular belief as a half-human 
creature, while even in old-fashioned works on natural history 
he may be found dejDicted on the evident model of an anthro- 
poid ape. In East Africa, the imagined tribe of long-tailed 
men are also monkey-faced,^ while in South America the coata 
tapuya, or " rnonkey-men," are as naturally described as men 
Y/ith tails.- European travellers have tried to rationalize the 
stories of tailed men which they meet with in Africa and the 
East. Thus Dr. Krapf points to a leather appendage worn 
behind from the girdle by the Wakamba, and remarks, '' It is no 
wonder that people say there are men with tails in the interior 
of Africa," and other Avriters have called attention to hanging 
mats or waist-cloths, fly-flappers or artificial tails worn for orna- 
ment, as having made their wearers liable to be mistaken at a 
distance for tailed men.^ But these apparently silly myths 
have often a real ethnological significance, deeper at any rate than 
such a trivial blunder. When an ethnologist meets in any 
district with the story of tailed men, he ought to look for a 
despised tribe of aborigines, outcasts, or heretics, living near 
or among a dominant population, who look upon them as 
beasts, and furnish them with tails accordingly. Although the 
aboriginal Miau-tsze, or ''children of the soil," come down from 
time to time into Canton to trade, the Chinese still firmly 
believe them to have short tails like monkeys;^ the half- 
civilized Malays describe the ruder forest tribes as tailed men ;* 
the Moslem nations of Africa tell the same story of the Niam- 
Nam of the interior.^ The outcast race of Cagots, about the 

1 Petherick, * Egypt, etc' p. 367. 

2 Southey, ' Brazil,' vol. i. p. 685 ; Martius, vol. i. pp. 425, 633. 

3 Krapf, p. 142 ; Baker, 'Albert jSTyanza,' vol. i. p. 83 ; St. John, vol. i. pp. 51, 
405 ; and others. 

4 Lockhart, 'Abor. of China,' in * Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. p. 181. 

^ ' Journ. Ind. Archip. ' vol. ii. p. 358; vol. iv. p. 374; Cameron, 'Malayan 
India,' p. 120; Marsden, p. 7; Antonio Galvano, pp. 120, 218. 

^ Davis, 'Carthage,' p. 230 ; Bostock and Eiley's Pliny (Bohn's ed.), vol. ii. 
p. 134, note. 


Pyrenees, were said to be born with tails ; and in Spain the 
mediaeval superstition still survives that the Jews have tails, 
like the devil, as they say.^ In England the notion was turned 
to theological jDrofit by being claimed as a judgment on wretches 
who insulted St. Augustine and St. Thomas of Canterbury, 
Home Tooke quotes thus from that zealous and somewhat foul- 
mouthed reformer, Bishop Bale : " Johan Capgrave and Alex- 
ander of Esseby sayth, that for castynge of fyshe tayles at thys 
Augustyne, Dorsett Shyre menne hadde tayles ever after. But 
Polydorus applieth it unto Kentish men at Stroud by Rochester, 
for cuttinge of Thomas Becket's horses tail. Thus hath Eng- 
land in all other land a perpetuall infamy of tayles by theyr 
wrytten legend es of lyes, yet can they not well tell, where to 
bestowe them truely an Englyshman now can- 
not travayle in an other land, by way of marchandyse or anj^ 
other honest occupyinge, but it is most contumeliously thrown 
in his tethe, that al Englishmen have tailes." ^ The story at 
last sank into a commonplace of local slander between shire 
and shire, and the Devonshire belief that Cornishmen had tails 
lingered at least till a few years ago.^ Not less curious is the 
tradition among savage tribes, that the tailed state was an early 
or original condition of man. In the Fiji Islands there is a 
legend of a tribe of men with tails like dogs, who perished in 
the great deluge, while the Tasmanians declared that men 
originall}^ had tails and no knee-joints. Among the natives of 
Brazil, it is related by a Portuguese writer of about 1600, after 
a couple have been married, the father or father-in-law cuts a 
wooden stick with a sharp flint, imagining that by this cere- 
mony he cuts off the tails of any future grandchildren, so that 
they will be born tailless."* There seems no evidence to connect 
the occasional occurrence of tail-like projections by malforma- 
tion with the stories of tailed human tribes.^ 

^ Francisque - Michel, 'Races Maudites,' vol. i. p. 17; 'Argot,' p. 349; 
Fernan Caballero, * La Gaviota,' vol. i. p. 59. 

2 Home Tooke, 'Diversions of Piirlcy,' vol. i. p, 397. 

=» Baring-Gould, 'Myths,' p. 137. 

■* Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 252; Backhouse, 'Austr.' p. 557; Purchas, 
vol. iv. p. 1290 ; i)e Lact, 'Novus Orbis,' p. 543. 

* For various other stories of tailed men, see 'As. Ees.' vol. iii. p. 149 ; 'Mem. 


Anthropology, until modern times, classified among its facts 
the particulars of monstrous human tribes, gigantic or dwarfish, 
mouth] ess or headless, one-eyed or one-legged, and so forth. 
The works of ancient geographers and naturalists a-bound in. 
descriptions of these strange creatures ; writers such as Isidore 
of Seville and Koger Bacon collected them, and sent them into 
fresh and y^dder circulation in the middle ages, and the popular 
belief of uncivilized nations retains them still. It was not till 
the real world had been so thoroughly explored as to leave 
little room in it for the monsters, that about the beginning 
of the present century science banished them to the ideal 
world of mythology. Having had to glance here at two of the 
principal sioecies in this amazing semi-human menagerie, it 
may be worth while to look among the rest for more hints as 
to the sources of mythic fancy.^ 

That some of the myths of giants and dwarfs are connected 
with traditions of real indigenous or hostile tribes is settled, 
beyond question by the evidence brought forward by Grimm, 
Nilsson, and Hanusch. "With all the difficulty of analysing 
the mixed nature of the dwarfs of European folklore, and 
judging how far they are elves, or gnomes, or such like nature- 
spirits, and how far human beings in mythic aspect, it is im- 
possible not to recognize this latter element in the kindly or 
mischievous aborigines of the land, with their special language, 
and religion, and costume. The giants appear in European 
folklore as Stone-Age heathen, shy of the conquering tribes of 
men, loathing their agriculture and the sound of their church- 
bells. The rude native's fear of the more civilized intruder 
in his land is well depicted in the tale of the giant's daughter, 
who found the boor ploughing his field and carried him home 

Anthrop. Soc' vol. i. p. 454; ' Journ. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. iii. p, 261, etc. (Nicobar 
Islands); Klemm, 'C. G.' vol. ii. pp. 246, 316 (Sarytschew Is.); 'Letters of 
Columbus,' Hakluyt Soc. p. 11 (Cuba), etc., etc. 

^ Details of monstrous tribes have been in past centuries specially collected in 
the following works : ' Anthropometamorphosis : Man Transformed, or the Arti- 
liciall Changeling, etc.,' scripsit J. B. cognomento Chirosophus, M.D., London, 
1653; Caloviiis, * De Thaumatanthropologia, vera pariter atque ficta tractatus 
historico-physicus,' Eostock, 16S5 ; J. A. Fabricius, * Dissertatio de hominibus 
orbis nostri incolis, etc.,' Hamburg, 1721. Only a few principal references are 
here given. 


in her apron for a plaything — plough, and oxen, and all ; but 
her mother bade her carry them back to where she found 
them, for, said she, they are of a people that can do the Huns 
much ill. The fact of the giant tribes bearing such historic 
names as Hun or Chud is significant, and Slavonic men have, 
perhaps, not yet forgotten that the dwarfs talked of in their 
legends were descended from the aborigines whom the Old- 
Prussians found in the land. Beyond a doubt the old Scandina- 
vians are describhig the ancient and ill-used Lapp population, 
once so widely spread over Northern Europe, when their sagas 
tell of the dwarfs, stunted and ugly, dressed in reindeer kirtle 
and coloured cap, cunning and cowardly, shy of intercourse 
even wdth friendly jSTorsemen, dwelling in caves or in the 
mound-like Lapland "gamm,'' armed only with arrows tipped 
with stone and bone, yet feared and hated by their conquerors 
for their fancied powers of witchcraft.-^ Moslem legend relates 
that the race of Gog and Magog (Yajuj and Majuj) are of tiny 
stature, but with ears like elephants ; they are a numerous 
people, and ravaged the world ; they dwell in the East, sepa- 
rated from Persia by a high mountain, with but one pass ; and 
the nations their neighbours, when they heard of Alexander 
the Great (Dhu I'Karnein) traversing the world, paid tribute 
to him, and he made them a wall of bronze and iron, to keep 
in the nation of Gog and Magog.^ Who can fail to recognize 
in this a mystified description of the Tatars of High Asia ? 
Professor Nilsson tries to account in a general way for the huge 
or tiny stature of legendary tribes, as being mere exaggeration 
of their actual largeness or smallness. We must admit that 
this sometimes really happens. The accounts which European 
eye-witnesses brought home of the colossal stature of the Pata- 
gonians, to whose waists they said their own heads reached, are 
enough to settle once for all the fact that myths of giants 
may arise from the sight of really tall men ; ^ and it is so, too, 

^ Grimm, * D. M.' cli. xvii. xviii, ; Nilsson, 'Primitive Inhabitants of Scandi- 
navia,' ch. vi. ; Haniisch, 'Slav. Myth.' pp. 230, 325-7 ; Wuttke, ' Volksabergl. ' 
p. 231. 

2 'Chronique do Tabari,' tr. Dubeux, part i. ch. viii. See Koran, xviii. 92. 

^ Pigafetta in Pinkerton, vol. xi. p. 314. See Blumenbach, 'De Generis 


ivith the dwarf-legends of the same region, as where Knivet, 
the old traveller, remarks of the little people of Rio de la 
Plata, that they are " not so very little as described." ^ 

Nevertheless, this same group of giant and dwarf myths- 
may serve as a warning not to stretch too widely a partial ex- 
planation, however sound within its proper limits. There is 
plenty of evidence that giant-legends are sometimes philosophic 
myths, to account for the finding of great fossil bones. To 
give but a single instance of such connexion, certain huge jaw^s 
and teeth, found in excavating on the Hoe at Plymouth, were 
recognized as belonging to the giant Gogmagog, who in old 
times fought his last fight there against Corineus, the eponymic 
hero of Cornwall.^ As to the dwarfs, again, stories of them are 
curiously associated with those long-enduring monuments of 
departed races — their burial-cysts and dolmens. Thus, in 
the United States, ranges of rude stone cysts, often only two 
or three feet long, are connected with the idea of a pygmy 
race buried in them, while in India it is a usual legend of 
the prehistoric dolmens, that they were dwarfs' houses — 
the dwellings of the ancient pygmies, who here again appear 
as representatives of prehistoric tribes.^ But a very different 
meaning is obvious in a mediaeval traveller's account of the 
hairy, man-like creatures of Cathay, one cubit high, and that 
do not bend their knees as the}^ walk, or in an Ara.b geogra- 
pher's description of an island people in the Indian seas, four 
spans high, naked, with red downy hair on their faces, and 
who climb up trees and shun mankind. If any one could pos- 
sibly doubt the real nature of these dwarfs, his doubt may be 
resolved by Marco Polo's statement that in his time monkej^s 
Y/ere regularly embalmed in the East Indies, and sold in boxes 

Hnmanos Varietate ; ' Fitzroy, *Yoy. of Adventure and Beagle,' vol. i. ; "VYaitz, 
* Anthropologie,' vol. iii. p. 488. 

^ Knivet in Purclias, vol. iv. p. 1231 ; compare Humboldt and Bonpland, 
vol. V. p. 564, with Martins, 'Ethnog. Amer.' p. 424; see also Krapf, 'East 
Africa,' p. 51 ; Du Chaillu, ' Asliango-land,' p. 319. 

^ 'Early Hist, of Mankind,' ch. xi. ; Hunt, * Pop. Rom.' 1st series, pp. IS, 304. 

^ Squier, * Abor. Monuments of N. Y.'p. 68 ; Long's *Exp.' vol. i. pp. 62, 275; 
Meadows Taylor in 'Journ. Etli. Soc.'vol. i. p. 157. 


to be exhibited over the world as pygmies.^ Thus various 
different facts have given rise to stories of giants and dwarfs, 
more than one mythic element perhaps combining to form a 
single legend — a result perplexing in the extreme to the my- 
thological interpreter. 

Descriptions of strange tribes made in entire good faith may 
come to be understood in new extravasfant senses, when carried 
among people not aware of the original facts. The following 
are some interpretations of this kind, amoug which some far- 
fetched cases are given, to show that the method must not be 
trusted too much. The term, "noseless" is apt to be mis- 
understood, yet it was fairly enough applied to flat-nosed 
tribes, such as Turks of the steppes, whom Rabbi Benjamin 
of Tudela thus depicts in the twelfth century : — " They have 
no noses, but draw breath through two small holes." ^ Again, 
among the common ornamental mutilations of savages is that 
of stretching the ears to an enormous size by w^eights or coils, 
and it is thus verbally quite true that there are men whose 
ears hang dovv^n upon their shoulders. Yet without explanation 
.such a phrase would be understood to describe, not the appear- 
ance of a real savage with his ear-lobes stretched into pendant 
ileshy loops, but rather that of Pliny's Panotii, or of the 
Indian Karnaprd^varana, " whose ears serve them for cloaks,'* 
or of the African dwarfs, who use their ears one for mattress 
and the other for coverlet when they lie down. One of the 
most extravagant of these stories is told by Fray Pedro Simon 
in California, where in fact the territory of Oregon has its 
name from the Spanish term of Ovejones, or ''Big-Ears," given to 
the inhabitants from their practice of stretching their ears with 
ornaments.^ Even purely metaphorical descriptions, if taken 

^ Gill, de Eubniquis in Pinkevton, vol. vii. p. 69 ; Lane, ' Thousand and One 
N.' vol. iii. pp. 81, 91, see 24, 52, 97; Hole, p. 63; Marco Polo, book iii. 
ch. xii, 

2 Benjamin of Tudela, 'Itinerary,' ed. and tr, by Asher, 83 ; Plin. vii. 2. See 
Max Miiller in Bunsen, vol. i. pp. 346, 358. 

3 Plin. iv. 27; Mela, iii. 6; Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,' voL i. p. 120; vol. ii. 
p. 93; St. John, vol. ii. p. 117; Marsden, p. 53; Lane, 'Thousand and One N.' 
voL iii. pp. 92, 305; Pethcrick, 'Egypt, etc.' p. 367; Burton, 'Central Afr.' 
vol. i. p. 235; Pedro Simon, ' Indias Occidentales,' p. 7. A name similar to 


in a literal sense, are capable of turning into catches, like the 
story of the horse with its head where its tail should be. I 
have been told by a French Protestant from the Nismes district 
that the epithet of gorgeo negro, or " black-throat," by which 
Catholics describe a Huguenot, is taken so literally that heretic 
children are sometimes forced to open their mouths to satisfy 
the orthodox of their being of the usual colour within. On 
examining the descriptions of savage tribes by higher races, it 
appears that several of the epithets usually applied only need 
literalizing to turn into the wildest of the legendary monster- 
stories. Thus, the Birmese speak of the rude Karens as 
" dog-men ; " ^ Marco Polo describes the Angaman (Andaman) 
islanders as brutish and savage cannibals, with heads like 
dogs.^ Elian's account of the dog-headed people of India is 
on the face of it an account of a savage race. The Kynokephali, 
he says, are so called from their bodily appearance, but other- 
wise they are human, and they go dressed in the skins of 
beasts ; they are just, and harm not men ; they cannot speak, 
but roar, yet they understand the language of the Indians ; 
they live by hunting, being swift of foot, and they cook their 
game not by fire, but by tearing it into fragments and drying 
it in the sun ; they keep goats and sheep, and drink the milk. 
The naturalist concludes by saying that he mentions these fitly 
among the irrational animals, because they have not articulate, 
distinct, and human language.^ This last suggestive remark 
well states the old prevalent notion that barbarians have no real 
language, but are "speechless," " tongueless," or even mouth- 
less.^ Another monstrous people of wide celebrity are Pliny's 

Oregones is Patagones, or ' Big-feet,' wliicli remains in Patagonia : compare with 
this the stories of men with feet so large as to serve for parasols, the Skiapodes 
or ' Shadowfeet,' Plin. vii. 2 ; see Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. i. p. 50. 

1 Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 133. 
- Marco Polo, book iii. ch. xviii. 

2 ^jlian, iv. 46 ; Plin. vi, 35 ; vii. 2. See for other versions, Purchas, vol. iv. 
p. 1191; vol. V. p. 901; Cranz, p. 267; Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' 
vol. iii. pp. 36, 94, 97, 305; Davis, 'Carthage,' p. 230; Latham, 'Descr. Eth.' 
vol. ii. p. 83. 

■* Plin. V. 8 ; vi. 24, 35 ; vii. 2 ; Mela, iii. 9 ; Herherstein in Haklnyt, vol. i. 
p. 593; Latham, 'Descr. Eth.' vol. i. p. 483; Davis, 1. c. ; see 'Early Hist, of 
Mankind,' p. 77. 


Blemmyae, said to be headless, and accordingly to have their 
mouths and eyes in their breasts ; creatures over whom Prester 
John reigned in Asia, who dwelt far and wide in South Ameri- 
can forests, and who to our mediaeval ancestors were as real as 
the cannibals with whom Othello couples them. 

" The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads 
Do grow beneath their shoulders." 

If, however, we look in dictionaries for the Acephali, we may 
find not actual headless monsters, but heretics so called because 
their original head or founder was not known ; and when the 
kingless Turkoman hordes say of themselves " We are a people 
without a head," the metaphor is even more plain and natural.^ 
Again, Moslem legend tells of the Shikk and the Nesnas, crea- 
tures like one half of a split man, with one arm, leg, and eye. 
Possibly it was thence that the Zulus got their idea of a tribe 
of half-men, who in one of their stories found a Zulu maiden in 
a cave and thought she was two people, but on closer inspection 
of her admitted, " The thing is pretty ! But oh the two legs ! " 
This odd fancy coin'bides with the simple metaphor which de- 
scribes a savage as only "half a man," seoiiihomo, as Yirgil 
calls the ferocious Cacus.^ Again, when the Chinese compared 
themselves to the outer barbarians, they said " We see with two 
eyes, the Latins with one, and all other nations are blind." 
Such metaphors, proverbial among ourselves, verbally corre- 
spond with legends of one-eyed tribes, such as the savage cave- 
dwelling Kyklopes.^ Verbal coincidence of this kind, untrust- 

* Plin. V. 8 ; Lane, vol. i. p. 33 ; vol. ii. p. 377 ; vol. iii. p. 81 ; Eisenmenger, 
vol. ii. p. 559 ; Mandeville, p. 243 ; Kaleigh in Hakluyt, vol. iii. pp. 652, 665 ; 
Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. v. p. 176; Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1285; vol. v. 
p. 901 ; Isidor. Hispal. s. v. 'Acephali ;' Vambeiy, p. 310, see p. 436. 

2 Lane, vol. i. p. 33 ; Callaway, ' Zulu Tales,' vol. i. pp. 199, 202 ; Virg. Mn. 
viii. 194. Compare the 'one-legged' tribes, Plin. vii. 2; Schoolcraft, 'Indian 
Tribes,' part iii. p. 521 ; Charlevoix, vol. i. p. 25. The Australians use the meta- 
phor * of one leg ' (matta gyn) to describe tribes as of one stock, G. F. Moore, 
'Vocab.'pp. 5, 71. 

3 Hayton in Purchas, vol. iii. p. 108; see Klemm, *C. G.' vol. vi. p. 129; 
Vamb^ry, p. 49; Homer. Odyss. ix.; Strabo, i. 2, 12; see Scherzer, ' Voy. of 
Novara,' vol. ii. p. 40 ; C. J. Audersson, ' Lake Ngami, etc. 'p. 453 ; Du Chaillu, 
'Equatorial Africa,' p. 440; Sir J. Richardson, 'Polar Regions,' p. 300. Eor 

A^OL. T. A A 


worthy enough in these latter instances, passes at last into the 
vaguest fancy. The negroes call Europeans " long-headed/' 
using the phrase in our familiar metaphorical sense ; but trans- 
late it into Greek, and at once Hesiod's MaJcrokephaloi come 
into being.^ And, to conclude the list, one of the commonest of 
the monster-tribes of the Old and New World is that distin- 
guished by having feet turned backward. Now there is really 
a people, whose name, memorable in scientific controversy, de- 
scribes them as " having feet the opposite way," and they still 
retain that ancient name oi Antipodes} 

Returning from this digression to the region of philosophic 
myth, we may examine new groups of explanatory stories, pro- 
duced from that craving to know causes and reasons which ever 
besets mankind. When the attention of a man in the myth- 
making stage of intellect is drawn to any phenomenon or 
custom which has to him no obvious reason, he invents and 
tells a story to account for it, and even if he does not persuade 
himself that this is a real legend of his forefathers, the story- 
teller who hears it from him and repeats it is troubled with no 
such difficulty. Our task in dealing with such stories is made 
easy when the criterion of possibility can be brought to bear 
upon them. It has become a mere certainty to moderns that 
asbestos is not really salamander's wool ; that morbid hunger is 
not really caused by a lizard or a bird in a man's stomach ; that 
a Chinese philosopher cannot really have invented the fire-drill 
by seeing a bird peck at the branches of a tree till sparks came. 
The African Wakuafi account for their cattle-lifting proclivities 
by the calm assertion that Engai, that is. Heaven, gave all 
cattle to them, and so wherever there is any it is their call 
to go and seize it.^ So in South America the fierce Mbayas 
declare they received from the Caracara a divine command to 

tribes with more than tAVO eyes, see Pliny's metaphorically explained Nisacsethse 
and Nisyti, Plin. vi. 35 ; also Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 414 ; 'Oestl. Asien,' 
vol. i. pp. 25, 76; Petherick, 1. c. ; Bowen, ' Yoruba Gr.' p. xx. ; Schirren, 
p. 196. 

1 Koelle, *Vei Gr.' p. 229 ; Strabo, i. 2, 35. 

^ Plin. vii. 2 ; Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. v. p. 81. 

3 Krapf, p. 359. 


make war on all other tribes, killing the men and adopting the 
women and children.^ But though it may be consistent with 
the notions of these savages to relate such explanatory legends, 
it is not consistent with our notions to believe them. Fortu- 
nately, too, the ex post facto legends are apt to come into 
collision with more authentic sources of information, or to en- 
croach on the domain of valid history. It is of no use for the 
Chinese to tell their stupid story of written characters having 
been invented from the markings on a tortoise's shell, for the 
early forms of such characters, plain and simple pictures of 
objects, have been preserved in China to this day. Nor can we 
praise anything but ingenuity in the West Highland legend 
that the Pope once laid an interdict on the land, but forgot to 
curse the hills, so the people tilled them, this story being told 
to account for those ancient traces of tillage still to be seen on 
the wild hill-sides, the so-called " elf- furrows." ^ The most em- 
barrassing cases of explanatory tradition are those which are 
neither impossible enough to condemn, nor probable enough to 
receive. Ethnographers who know how world-wide is the 
practice of defacing the teeth among the lower races, and how 
it only dies gradually out in higher civilization, naturally ascribe 
the habit to some general reason in human nature, at a parti- 
cular stage of development. But the mutilating tribes them- 
selves have local legends to account for local customs ; thus the 
Penongs of Birmah and the Batoka of East Africa both break 
their front teeth, but the one tribe says its reason is not to 
look like apes, the other that it is to be like oxen and not like 
^ebras.^ Of the legends of tattooing, one of the oddest is that 
told to account for the fact that while the Fijians tattoo only 
the women, their neighbours, the Tongans, tattoo only the men. 
It is related that a Tongan, on his way from Fiji to report to 
his countrymen the proper custom for them to observe, went on 
his way repeating the rule he had carefully learnt by heart, 
" Tattoo the women, but not the men," but unluckily he 
tripped over a stump, got his lesson wrong, and reached Tonga 

1 Southey, * Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 390. 

2 D. Wilson, 'Archaeology, etc. of Scotland,' p. 123. 

^ Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 128 ; Livingstone, p. 532. 

A A 2 

O X 


repeating " Tattoo the men, but not the women," an ordinance 
which they observed ever after. How reasonable such an 
explanation seemed to the Polynesian mind, may be judged 
from the Samoans having a version with different details, and 
applied to their own instead of the Tongan islands.^ 

All men feel how wanting in sense of reality is a story with 
no personal name to hang it to. This want is thus graphically 
expressed by Sprenger the historian in his life of Mohammed : 
" It makes, on me at least, quite a different impression when it 
is related that ' the Prophet said to Alkama,' even if I knevf 
nothing whatever else of this Alkama, than if it were merely 
stated that ' he said to somebody.' " The feeling which this 
acute and learned critic thus candidly confesses, has from the 
earliest timOvS, and in the minds of men troubled with no such 
nice historic conscience, germinated to the production of much 
mythic fruit. Thus it has come to pass that one of the leading 
personages to be met with in the tradition of the world is really 
no more than — Somebody. There is nothing this wondrous 
creature cannot achieve, no shape he cannot put on; one only 
restriction binds him at all, that the name he assumes shall 
have some sort of congruity with the office he undertakes, and 
even from this he oftentimes breaks loose. So rife in our own 
day is this manufacture of personal history, often fitted up with 
details of place and date into the very semblance of real 
chronicle, that it may be guessed how vast its working must 
have been in days of old. Thus the ruins of ancient buildings, 
of whose real history and use no trustworthy tradition survives 
in local memory, have been easily furnished by myth with a 
builder and a purpose. In Mexico the great Somebody assumes 
the name of Montezuma, and builds the aqueduct of Tezcuco ; 
to the Persian any huge and antique ruin is the work of the 
heroic Antar; in Russia, says Dr. Bastian, buildings of the 
Tuost various ages are set down to Peter the Great, as in Spain 
to Boabdil or Charles Y. ; and European folklore may attribute 

1 Williams, 'Fiji,' p. 160; Seemann, 'Viti,'p. 113; Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 182 
(a similar legend told by the Samoans). Another tattooing legend in Latham, 
* Descr. Eth.' vol. i. p. 152 ; Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 112. 


to the Devil any old building of unusual massiveness, and espe- 
cially those stone structures which antiquaries now class as prge- 
historic monuments. With a more graceful thought, the Indians 
of North America declare that the imitative tumuli of Ohio, 
great mounds laid out in rude imitation of animals, were 
shaped in old days by the great Manitu himself, in promise of 
a plentiful supply of game in the world of spirits. The New 
Zealanders tell how the hero Kupe separated the North and 
South Islands, and formed Cook's Straits. Greek myth placed 
at the gate of the Mediterranean the twin pillars of Plerakles ; 
in more recent times the opening of the Straits of Gibraltar 
became one of the many feats of Alexander of Macedon.^ Such 
a group of stories as this is no unfair test of the value of mere 
traditions of personal names w^hich simply answer the questions 
that mankind have been asking for ages about the origin of 
their rites, laws, customs, arts. Some such traditions are of 
course genuine, and we may be able, especially in the more 
modern cases, to separate the real from the imaginary. But it 
must be distinctly laid down that, in the absence of corrobora- 
tive evidence, every tradition stands suspect of mythology, if it 
can be made by the simple device of fitting some personal name 
to the purely theoretical assertion that somebody must have 
introduced into the world fire-making, or weapons, or orna- 
ments, or games, or agriculture, or marriage, or any other of the 
elements of civilization. 

Among the various matters which have excited curiosity, and 
led to its satisfaction by explanatory myths, are local names. 
These, when the popular ear has lost their primitive significance, 
become in barbaric times an apt subject for the myth-maker to 
explain in his peculiar fashion. Thus the Tibetans declare that 
their lake Chomoriri was named from a woman (chomo) who 
was carried into it by the yak she was riding, and cried in 
terror ri-ri ! The Arabs say the founders of the city of Senna 
saw on the river bank a beautiful woman with teeth glit+ 

^ Bastian, 'Mensch,'voL iii. pp. 167-8 ; Wilkinson in Eawlinson's ' 
vol. ii. p. 79; Grimm, ' D. M.' pp. 972-6 ; W. G. Palgrave, * ' 
p. 251 ; Sqiiier and Davis, 'Monuments of Mississippi Valley.' 
'New Zealand,' p. 258. 


like fire, whence they called the place Sinndr, i.e., ''tooth of 
fire." The Arkadians derived the name of their town Trapezus 
from the table (trapeza), which Zeus overturned when the 
wolfish L37kaon served a child on it for a banquet to him.^ 
Such crude fancies no way differ in nature from English local 
legends current up to recent times, such as that which relates 
how the. Romans, coming in sight of where Exeter now stands, 
exclaimed in delight, " Ucce terra ! " and thus the city had its 
name. Not long ago, a curious enquirer wished to know from 
the inhabitants of Fordinghridge, or as the country people call 
it, Fardenhridge, what the origin of this name might be, and 
heard in reply that the bridge was thought to have been built 
when wages were so cheap that masons worked for a " farden " 
a day. The Falmouth folks' story of Squire Pendarvis and his 
ale is well known, how his servant excused herself for selling it 
to the sailors, because, as she said, " The penny come so quick;' 
whence the place came to be called Pennycomequick ; this 
nonsense being invented to account for an ancient Cornish 
name, probably Penyciimgvnc, "head of the creek valley." 
Mythic fancy had fallen to a low estate when it dwindled to 
such remnants as this. 

That personal names may pass into nouns, we, who talk of 
hroughccms and bluchers, cannot deny. But any such etymo- 
logy ought to have contemporary document or some equally 
forcible proof in its favour, for this is a form of explanation 
taken by the most flagrant myths. David the painter, it is 
related, had a promising pupil named Chicque, the son of a 
fruiterer ; the lad died at eighteen, but his master continued to 
hold him up to later students as a model of artistic cleverness, 
and hence arose the now familiar term of chic. Etymologists, 
a race not w^anting in effrontery, have hardly ever surpassed 
this circumstantial canard ; the word chic dates at any rate from 

"•atham, 'Descr. Eth.' vol. i. p. 43; Lejean in *Rev. des Deux Mondes,' 

1862, p. 856; ApoUodor. iii. 8. Compare the derivation of Arcquijja hy 

'ans from the words ari/ qiiepay= ^ yes \ remain,' said to have been 

the colonists by the Inca : Markhara, 'Quichiia Gr. and Die.;' also 

vraology oi Dahome, Danh-lio-mcn— ' on the belly of Danh,' from 

Dako building his palace on the body of the conquered King; 

Tr. Eth. Soc' vol, iii. p. 401. 


the seventeenth century.^ Another word with which similar 
liberty has been taken, is cant Steele, in the ' Spectator/ says 
that some people derive it from the name of one Andrew Cant, 
a Scotch minister, who had the gift of preaching in such a 
dialect that he was understood by none but his own congrega- 
tion, and not by all of them. This is, perhaps, not a very 
accurate delineation of AndroAv Cant, who is mentioned in 
' Whitelock's Memorials,' and seems to have known how to 
speak out in very plain terms indeed. But at any rate he 
flourished about 1650, whereas the verb to cant was then 
already an old word. To cante, meaning to speak, is men- 
tioned in Harman's 'List of Rogues' Words' in 1566, and in 
1587 Harrison says of the beggars and gypsies that they have 
devised a language among themselves, which they name cant- 
ing, but others '^ Pedlars' Frenche." ^ Of all etymologies 
ascribed to personal names, one of the most curious is that 
of the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, so well known from 
Holbein's pictures. Its supposed author is thus mentioned in 
the ' Biographie Universelle : ' " Macaber, poete allemand, serait 
tout-a-fait inconnu sans I'ouvrage qu'on a sous son nom." This, 
it may be added, is true enough, for there never was such a 
person at all, the Danse Mctcahre being really Chorea Macha- 
bceorum, the Dance of the Maccabees, a kind of pious panto- 
mime of death performed in churches in the fifteenth century. 
Why the performance received this name, is that the rite of 
Mass for the Dead is distinguished by the reading of that 
passage from the twelfth chapter of Book II. of the Maccabees, 
which relates how the people betook themselves to prayer, and 

^ Charnock, ' Verba Nomiiialia,' s. v. 'cliic;' see Fraiicisque-Micliel, 'Argot,* 
s. V. 

2 'Spectator,' No. 147; Brand, 'Pop. Ant.' vol. iii. j). 93; Hotteu, 'Slang Dic- 
tionary,' p. 3; Charnock, s. v. 'cant.' As to the real etymology, that from the beg- 
gar's Avhining chaimt is defective, for the beggar drops this tone exactly Avhen he 
cants, i. e., talks jargon with his fellows. If cant is directly from Latin cantare, it 
will correspond witli Italian cantare and French chanter, both used as slang words 
for to speak (Francisque-Michel, 'Argot'). A Keltic origin is possible, Gaelic 
and Irish cainnt, cam^= talk, langnagc, dialect; the Gaelic equivalents for pedlars' 
French or tramps' slang, are 'Laidionn nan ceard,' ^cainnt cheard, ' 1 e., tinkers' 
Latin or jargon, or exactly ' cairds' cant.' A deeper connexion between cainnt 
and cantare does not affect this. 


besought the Lord that the sin of those who had been slain 
among them might be wholly blotted out ; for if Judas had not 
expected that the slain should rise again, it had been super- 
fluous and vain to pray for the dead.^ Traced to its origin, it is 
thus seen that the Danse Macabre is neither more nor less than 
the Dance of the Dead. 

It is not an unusual thing for tribes and nations to be known 
by the name of their chief, as in books of African travel we 
read of " Eyo's people," or "Kamrazi's people." Such terms 
may become permanent, like the name of the Osmanli Turks 
taken from the great Otlwian, or Osman. The notions of kin- 
ship and chieftainship may easily be combined, as where some 
individual Brian or Alpine may have given his name to a clan 
of O'Briens or Mac Alioines. How far the tribal names of the 
lower races may have been derived from individual names of 
chiefs or forefathers, is a question on which sound evidence is 
difficult to obtain. The Zulus and Maoris Vv^ere races who paid 
great attention to the traditional genealogies of their clan- 
ancestors, who were, indeed, not only their kinsfolk but their 
gods ; and they distinctly recognize the possibility of tribes 
being named from a deceased ancestor or chief The Kafir 
tribe of Ama-Xosa derives its name from a chief, • U-Xosa ; ^ 
and the Maori tribes of Ngate- Wakaue and Nga-Piiki claim 
descent from chiefs called Wakaue and Puhi.^ Around this 
nucleus of actuality, however, there gathers an enormous mass 
of fiction simulating its effects. The myth-maker, curious to 
know how any people or country gained its name, had only to 
conclude that it came from a great ancestor or ruler, and then 
the simple process of turning a national or local title into a 
personal name at once added a new genealogy to historical tra- 
dition. The myth-maker has in some cases made the name of 
the imagined ancestor such that the local or gentile name should 
stand as grammatically derived from it, as usually happens in 
real cases, like the derivation of Ccesarea from Ccesar, or of the 

^ See also Fraucisqiie-Micliel, 'Argot,' s. v. 'maccabe, macchabde ' = noye. 

2 Dblrne, 'Zulu Die. 'p. 417; Arbousset and Daumas, p. 2(39; Waitz, vol. ii. 
pp. 349, 352. 

3 Shortland, ' Trads. of IT. Z. p. 224. 


Benedictines from Benedict But in the fictitious genealogy 
or history of the myth-maker, the mere unaltered name of the 
nation, tribe, country, or city often becomes without more ado 
the name of the eponymic hero. It has to be remembered, 
moreover, that countries and nations can be personified by an 
imaginative process which has not quite lost its sense in 
inodern speech. France is talked of by politicians as an in- 
dividual being, with particular opinions and habits, and may 
even be embodied as a statue or picture with suitable at- 
tributes. And if one were to say that Britannici has two 
daughters, Canadcc and Australia, or that she has gone to 
keep house for a decrepit old aunt called India, this would be 
admitted as plain fact expressed in fantastic language. The 
invention of ancestries from eponymic heroes or name-ancestors 
has, however, often had a serious effect in corrupting historic 
truth, by helping to fill ancient annals v/ith swarms of fictitious 
genealogies. Yet, when surveyed in a large view, the nature of 
the eponymic fictions is patent and indisputable, and so regular 
are their forms, that we could scarcely choose more telling ex- 
amples of the consistent processes of imagination, as shown in 
the development of myths. 

The great number of the eponymic ancestors of ancient 
Greek tribes and nations makes it easy to test them by com- 
parison, and the test is a destructive one. Treat the heroic 
genealogies they belong to as traditions founded on real history, 
and they prove hopelessly independent and incompatible ; but 
consider them as mostly local and tribal myths, and such inde- 
pendence and incompatibility become their proper features. 
Mr. Grote, whose tendency is to treat all myths as fictions not 
only unexplained but unexplainable, here makes an exception, 
tracing the eponymic ancestors from whom Greek cities and 
tribes derived their legendary parentage, to mere embodied 
local and gentile names. Thus, of the fifty sons of Lykaon, a 
whole large group consists of personified cities of Arkadia, such 
as Mantineus, Phigcdos, Tegeates, who, according to the simply 
inverting legend, are called founders of Mantinea, Phigalia, 
Tegea. The father of King ^akos was Zeus, his mother his 
own personified land jEgina; the city of Myhenai had not only 



an ancestress Mylcene, but an epon37mic ancestor as wel],. 
Myheneus. Long afterwards, mediaeval Europe, stimulated by 
the splendid genealogies through which Rome had attached 
herself to Greece and the Greek gods and heroes, discovered 
the secret of rivalling them in the chronicles of Geoffry of 
Monmouth and others, by claiming, as founders of Paris and 
Tours, the Trojans Paris and Turnus, and connecting France 
and Britain with the Trojan war through Francus, son of 
Hector, and Brutus, great grandson of ^neas. A remarkably 
perfect eponymic historical myth accounting for the Gypsies or 
Egyptians, may be found cited seriously in ' Blackstone's Com- 
mentaries:' when Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in 1517^ 
several of the natives refused to submit to the Turkish yoke, 
and revolted under one Zinganeus, whence the Turks called 
them Zinganees, but being at length surrounded and banished, 
they agreed to disperse in small parties over the world, etc., etc. 
It is curious to watch Milton's mind emerging, but not wholly 
emerging, from the state of the mediaeval chronicler. He men- 
tions in the beginning of his 'History of Britain,' the "out- 
landish figment " of the four kings, Magus, Savon, Druis, and 
Bardus; he has no approval for the giant Albion, son of Nep- 
tune, who subdued the island and called it after his own name ; 
he scoffs at the four sons of Japhet, called Francus, Pomanus^ 
Alemannus, and Britto. But when he comes to Brutus and the 
Trojan legends of old English history, his sceptical courage fails 
him : " those old and inborn names of successive kings, never 
any to have bin real persons, or don in their lives at least som 
part of what so long hath bin remember 'd, cannot be thought 
without too strict an incredulity." ^ 

Among ruder races of the w^orld, asserted genealogies of this 
class may be instanced in South American tribes called the 
Amoipira and Potyuara,^ Khond clans called Baska and Jakso,^ 

^ On the adoption of imaginary ancestors as connected with the fiction of a 
common descent,' and the important political and religious effects of these pro- 
ceedings, see especially Grote, 'Hist, of Greece,' vol, i. ; McLennan, 'Primitive 
Marriage ; ' Maine, 'Ancient Law.' Interesting details on eponymic ancestors in 
Pott, ' Anti-Kaulen, oder Mythische Yorstellungen vom Ursprunge der Volker und 

2 Martins, 'Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 54 ; see 283. 

3 Macpherson, 'India,' p. 78. 


Turkoman hordes called Yomut, TekJce, and Chaudor^ all of 
them professing to derive their designations from ancestors or 
chiefs who bore as individuals these very names. Where criti- 
cism can be brought to bear on these genealogies, its effect is 
often such as drove Brutus and his Trojans out of English 
history. When there appear in the genealogy of Haussa, in 
West Africa., plain names of towns like Kano and Katsena,^ it 
is natural to consider these towns to have been personified into 
mythic ancestors. Mexican tradition assigns a whole set of 
eponymic ancestors or chiefs to the various races of the land, 
as Mexi the founder of Mexico, Cldchimecatl the first king of 
the Chichimecs, and so forth, down to Otomitl the ancestor of 
the Otomis, whose very name by its termination betrays its 
Aztec invention.^ The Brazilians account for the division of 
the Tupis and Guaranis by the legend of two ancestral 
brothers Tu2')i and (ritaram, who quarrelled and separated, each 
with his followers ; but an eponymic origin of the story is made 
likely by the word Guarani not being an old national name at all, 
but merely the designation of " warriors " given by the mission- 
aries to certain tribes.* And when such facts are considered as 
that North American clans named after animals, Beaver, Cray- 
fish, and the like, account for these names by simply claiming 
the very creatures themselves as ancestors,^ the tendency of 
general criticism will probably be not so much in favour of real 
forefathers and chiefs who left their names to their tribes, as of 
eponymic ancestors created by backwards imitation of such 

The examination of eponymic legend, however, must by no 
means stop short at the destructive stage. Tn fact, when it 
has undergone the sharpest criticism, it only displays the more 
clearly a real historic value, not less perhaps than if all the 
names it records were real names of ancient chiefs. With all 

^ Yanibery, 'Central Asia,' p. 325; see also Latham, 'Descr. Etli.' vol. i. 
p. 456 (Ostyaks) ; Georgi, ' Eeise ini Riiss. Eeich,' vol. i. j). 242 (Tunguz). 

2 Barth, 'N. & Centr. Afr.' voL ii. p. 71. 

3 J. G. Muller, ' Amer. UiTelig.' p. 574. 

'* Martins, vol. i. pp. 180-4; Waltz, voL iii. p. 416. 

* Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 319, part iii. p. 268, see part ii. p. 49; 
Catlin, vol. ii. p. 128 ; J. G. Muller, pp. 134, 327. 


their fancies, blunders, and shortcomings, the heroic genealogies 
preserve early theories of nationality, traditions of migration, 
invasion, connexion by kindred or intercourse. The ethnologists 
of old days, borrowing the phraseology of myth, stated what 
they looked on as the actual relations of races, in a personifying 
language of which the meaning may still be readily interpreted. 
The Greek legend of the twin brothers Danaos and jEgyptos, 
founders of the nations of the Danaoi or Homeric Greeks and 
of the ^Egyptians, represents a distinct though weak ethnolo- 
gical theory. Their eponymic myth of Hellen, the personified 
race of the Hellenes, is another and more reasonable ethnolo- 
gical document stating kinship among four great branches of 
the Greek race : the three sons of Hellen, it relates, were 
Aiolos, Doros, and Xouthos; the first two gave their names to 
the jEolians and Dorians, the third had sons called Achaios and 
Ion, whose names passed as a heritage to the Achaioi and 
lonians. The belief of the Lydians, Mysians, and Karians, 
as to their national kinship is well expressed in the genealogy 
in Herodotus, which traces their descent from the three brothers 
Lydos, My SOS, and Kar} The Persian legend of Feridun (Thrae- 
taona) and his three sons, Irej, Tut, and BelTYi, distinguishes the 
two nationalities of Iranian and Turanian, i. e., Persian and 
Tatar.* The national genealogyof the Afghans is worthy of remark. 
It runs thus : Melik Talut (King Saul) had two sons, Berkia and 
Irmia (Berekiah and Jeremiah), who served David ; the son of 
Berkia was Afghan, and the son of Irmia was Usbek. Thanks 
to the aquiline noses of the Afghans, and to their 'Use of Biblical 
personal names derived from Biblical sources, the idea of their 
being descendants of the lost tribes of Israel found great cre- 
dence among European scholars up to the present century.^ 
Yet the pedigree is ethnologically absurd, for the whole source 
of the imagined cousinship of the Aryan Afghan and the Tura- 
nian Ushek, so distinct both in feature and in language, appears 

^ Grote, ' Hist, of Greece ; ' Paiisan. iii. 20 ; Diod. Sic. v. ; Apollodor. Bibl. i. 
7, 3, vi. 1, 4 ; Herodot. i. 171. 

2 Max Miiller in Bunsen, vol. i. p. 338 ; Tabari, part i. ch. xlv. Ixix. 

3 Sir W. Jones in *As. Ees.' vol. ii. p. 24 ; Vansittart, ibid. p. 67 ; see Camp- 
bell, in * Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1866, part ii. p. 7. 


to be in their union by common Mohammedanism, ^vhile the 
reckless jumble of sham history, which derives botii from a 
Semitic source, is only too characteristic of Moslem chronicle. 
Among the Tatars is found a much more reasonable national 
pedigree ; in the 13th century, William of K-uysbroek relates, as 
sober circumstantial history, that they were originally called 
Turks from Turk the eldest son of Japhet, but one of their 
princes left his dominions to his twin sons, Tatar and Mongol^ 
which gave rise to the distinction that has ever since prevailed 
between these two nations.^ Historically absurd, this legend 
states what appears the unimpeachable ethnological fact, that the 
Turks, Mongols, and Tatars are closely-connected branches of 
one national stock, and we can only dispute in it what seems an 
exorbitant claim on the part of the Turks to represent the head 
of the family, the ancestor of the Mongol and the Tatar. Thus 
these eponymic national genealogies, mythological in form but 
ethnological in substance, embody opinions of which we may 
admit or deny the truth or value, but which we must recognize 
as distinctly ethnological documents.^ 

It thus appears that early ethnology is habitually expressed 
in a metaphorical language, in which lands and nations are per- 
sonified, and their relations indicated by terms of personal kin- 
ship. This description applies to that important document of 
ancient ethnology, the table of nations in the 10th chapter of 
Genesis. In some cases, it is a problem of minute and difficult 
criticism to distinguish among its ancestral names those which 
are simply local or national designations in personal form. But 
to critics conversant with the ethnic genealogies of other peoples, 
such as have here been quoted, simple inspection of this national 
list may suffice to show that part of its names are of such local 
or national character. The city Zidon (H"^!^) is brother to 
Heth (pxi) the father of the Hittites, and next follow in person 
the Jebusite and the Amorite. Among plain names of countries, 

^ Gill, de Eubriiqiiis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 23 ; Gabelentz in * Zeitsclir. fiir 
die Kunde des Morgenlandes,' vol. ii. p. 73; Schmidt, * Volker Mittel-Asien,' 
p. 6. 

2 See also Pott, * Anti-Kaulen,' pp. 19, 23 ;Eassen, pp. 70, 153 ; and remarks 
on colonization-myths in Max Miiller, ' Chij)s,' vol. ii. p. 68. 


Cush or Ethiopia {p^'2) begets Nimrod, Asshur or Assyria 
(nic^b^) builds Nineveh, and even the dual Mizrahn (om^rj), 
the "two Egypts " (apparently meaning Upper and Lower 
Egypt, the " tw^o lands," as the Egyptians themselves wrote it in 
their inscriptions), appears as a personal son and brother of 
other countries, and ancestor of populations. The Aryan stock 
is clearly recognized in personifications of at least two of 
its members, Madai O^r^) the Mede, and Javan {]V) the 
Ionian. And as regards the family to which the Israelites 
themselves belong, if Canaan (]3?2D), the father of Zidon 
(]T!^), be transferred to it to represent the Phoenicians, by 
the side of Asshnr (p^w^), Aram (u^^), Eher (nni?), and the 
other descendants of Shem, the result wdll be mainly to arrange 
the Semitic stock according to the ordinary classification of 
modern com^^arative philology. 

Turning now from cases w^here mythologic phrase serves as a 
^medium for expressing philosophic opinion, let us quickly cross 
\ the district where fancy assumes the semblance of explanatory 
legend. The mediaeval schoolmen have been justly laughed at 
for their habit of translating plain facts into the terms of meta- 
physics, and then solemnly offering them in this scientific guise 
as explanations of themselves — accounting for opium making 
people sleep, by its possession of a dormitive virtue. The m3rth- 
maker's proceedings may in one respect be illustrated by com- 
paring them with this. Half mythology is occupied, as many a 
legend cited in these chapters has shown, in shaping the fami- 
liar facts of daily life into imaginary histories of their own cause 
and origin, childlike answers to those world-old questions of 
whence and why, which the savage asks as readily as the sage. 
So familiar is the nature of such description in the dress of 
history, that its easier examples translate off hand. When the 
Samoans say that ever since the great battle among the plan- 
tains and bananas, the vanquished have hung down their heads, 
while the victor stands proudly erect,^ who can mistake the 
simple metaphor which compares the upright and the drooping 
plants to a conqueror standing among his beaten foes. In 
simile just as obvious lies the origin of another Polynesian 

1 Seemann, 'Yiti,' p. Sll ; Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 252. 


legend, which relates the creation of the coco-nut from a man's 
head, the chestnuts from, his kidneys, and the yams from his 
legs.^ To draw one more example from the mythology of 
plants, how transparent is the Ojibwa fancy of that heavenly 
youth with green robe and waving feathers, whom for the good 
of men the Indian overcame and buried, and who sprang again 
from his grave as the Indian corn, Mondamin, the "Spirit's 
grain."^ The New Forest peasant deems that the marl he digs 
is still red with the blood of his ancient foes the Danes ; the 
Maori sees on the red cliffs of Cook's Straits the blood stains 
that Kupe made when, mourning for the death of his daughter, 
he cut his forehead with pieces of obsidian ; in the spot where 
Buddha offered his own body to feed the starved tigress's cubs, 
his blood for ever reddened the soil and the trees and flowers. 
The modern Albanian still sees the stain of slaughter in streams 
running red with earth, as to the ancient Greek the river that 
flowed by Byblos bore down in its summer floods the red blood 
of Adonis. The Cornishman knows from the red filmy growth 
on the brook pebbles that murder has been done there ; John 
the Baptist's blood still grows in Germany on his day, and 
peasants still go out to search for it ; the red meal-fungus is 
blood dropped by the flying Huns when they hurt their feet 
against the high tower-roofs. The traveller in India might see 
on the ruined walls of Ganga Raja the traces of the blood of the 
citizens spilt in the siege, and yet more marvellous to relate, at 
St. Denis's church in Cornwall, the bloodstains on the stones fell 
there when the saint's head was cut off somewhere else.^ Of 
such translations of descriptive metaphor under thin pretence of 
history, every collection of myth is crowded with examples, but 
it strengthens our judgment of the combined consistency and 

1 Ellis, 'Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p. 69. 

2 Schoolcraft, 'Algic lies.' vol. i. p. 122 ; 'Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 320, part 
ii. p. 230. 

^ J. R. Wise, 'The New Forest,' p. 160 ; Taylor, ' New Zealand,' p. 268 ; Max 
Miiller, 'Chips,' vol. i. p. 249; M. A. Walker, 'Macedonia,' p. 192; Movers, 
' Phonizier,' vol. i. p. 665 ; Lucian. de Deii Syria 8 ; Hunt, . * Pop. Kom.' 2nd 
Series, p. 15; Wuttke, * Volksaberglaube,' pp. 16, 94; Bastian, 'Mensch,* 
vol. ii. p. 59, vol. iii. p. 185 ; Buchanan, 'Mysore, etc' in Pinkerton, vol. viii. 
p. 714. 


variety of what may be called the mythic language, to extract 
from its dictionary such a group as this, which in such variously 
imaginative fashion describes the appearance of a blood-red 

The merest shadowy fancy or broken-down metaphor, when, 
once it gains a sense of reality, may begin to be spoken of as an 
actual event. The Moslems have heard the very stones praise 
Allah, not in simile only but in fact, and among them the say- 
ing that a man's fate is written on his forehead has been mate- 
rialised into a belief that it can be deciphered from the letter- 
like markings of the sutures of his skull. One of the miracu- 
lous passages in the life of Mohammed himself is traced plau- 
sibly by Sprenger to such a pragmatized metaphor. The angel 
Gabriel, legend declares, opened the Prophet's breast, and took 
a black clot from his heart, which he washed with Zemzem 
water and replaced ; details are given of the angel's dress and 
golden basin, and Anas ibn Malik declared he had seen the very 
mark where the wound was sewn up. We may venture with 
the historian to ascribe this marvellous incident to the familiar 
metaphor that Mohammed's heart was divinely opened and 
cleansed, and indeed he does say in the Koran that God opened 
his heart.^ A single instance is enough to represent the same 
habit in Christian legend. Marco Polo relates how in 1225 the 
Khalif of Bagdad commanded the Christians of his dominions,, 
under penalty of death or IsJam, to justify their Scriptural 
text by removing a certain mountain. Now there was among 
them a shoemaker, who, having been tempted to excess of ad- 
miration for a woman, had plucked out his offending eye. This 
man commanded the mountain to remove, which it did to the 
terror of the Khalif and all his people, and since then the anni- 
versary of the miracle has been kept holy. The Venetian tra- 
veller, after the manner of mediaeval writers, records the story 
without a symptom of suspicion f yet to our minds its whole 
origin so obviously lies in three verses of St. Matthew's gospel, 
that it is needless to quote them. To modern taste such wooden 
fictions as these are far from attractive. In fact the pragma- 

1 Sprenger, 'Leben des Moliammad, ' vol. i. pp. 78, 119, 162, 310. 

2 Marco Polo, book i. ch. viii. 


tizer is a stupid creature, nothing is too beautiful or too sacred 
to be made dull and vulgar by his touch, for it is through the 
very incapacity of his mind to hold an abstract idea that he is 
forced to embody it in a material incident. Yet wearisome as 
he may be, it is none the less needful to understand him, to 
acknowledge the vast influence he has had on the behef of man- 
kind, and to appreciate him as representing in its extreme abuse 
that tendency to clothe every thought in a concrete shape, 
which has in all ages been a mainspring of mythology. 

Though allegory cannot maintain the large place often claimed 
for it in mythology, it has yet had too much influence to be 
passed over in this survey. It is true that the search for 
allegorical explanation is a pursuit that has led many a zealous 
explorer into the quagmires of mysticism. Yet there are cases 
in which allegory is certainly used with historical intent, as for 
instance in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, with its cows and 
sheep which stand for Israelites, and asses and wolves for Midi- 
anites and Egyptians, these creatures figuring in a pseudo-pro- 
phetic sketch of Old Testament chronicles. As for moral allegory, 
it is immensely plentiful in the world, although its limits are 
narrower than mythologists of past centuries have supposed. 
It is now reasonably thought preposterous to interpret the Greek 
legends as moral apologues, after the manner of Herakleides the 
philosopher, who could discern a parable of repentant prudence 
in Athene seizing Achilles when just about to draw his sword 
on Agamemnon.^ Still, such a mode of interpretation has thus 
much to justify it, that numbers of the fanciful myths of the 
world are really allegories. There is allegory in the Hesiodic 
myth of Pandora, whom Zeus sent down to men, decked with 
golden band and garland of spring flowers, fit cause of longing 
and the pangs of love, but using with a dog-like mind her gifts 
of lies and treachery and pleasant speech. Heedless of his wiser 
brother's words, the foolish Epimetheus took her ; she raised the 
lid of the great cask and shook out the evils that wander among 
mankind, and the diseases that by day and night come silently 
bringing ill ; she set on the lid again and shut Hope in, that 
evil might be ever hopeless to mankind. Shifted to fit a diffe- 

^ Grote, vol. i. p. 347. 

VOL. I. B B 


rent moral, the allegory remained in the later version of the 
tale, that the cask held not curses but blessings ; these were let 
go and lost to men when the vessel was too curiously opened, 
while Hope alone was left behind for comfort to the luckless 
human race.^ Yet the primitive nature of such legends under- 
lies the moral shape upon them. Zeus is no allegoric fiction, 
and Prometheus, unless modern mythologists judge him very 
wrongly, has a meaning far deeper than parable. Xenophon 
tells (after Prodikos) the story of Herakles choosing between 
the short and easy path of pleasure and the long and toilsome 
path of virtue,^ but though the mythic hero may thus be made 
to figure in a moral apologue, an imagination so little in keep- 
ing with his unethic nature jars upon the reader's mind. 

The general relation of allegory to pure myth can hardly be 
brought more clearly into view than in a class of stories familiar 
to every child, the Beast-fables. From the ordinary civilized 
point of view the allegory in such fictions seems fundamental, the 
notion of a moral lesson seems bound up with their very nature, 
yet a broader examination tends to prove the allegorical growth 
as it were parasitic on an older trunk of myth without moral. 
It is only by an effort of intellectual reaction that a modern 
writer can imitate in parable the beast of the old Beast-fable. 
No wonder, for the creature has become to his mind a monster, 
only conceivable as a caricature of man made to carry a moral 
lesson or a satire. But among savages it is not so. To their 
minds the semi-human beast is no fictitious creature invented 
to preach or sneer, he is all but a reality. Beast-fables are not 
nonsense to men who ascribe to the lower animals a power of 
speech, and look on them as partaking of moral human nature ; 
to men in whose eyes any wolf or hyaena may probably be a man- 
hysena or a werewolf; to men who so utterly believe " that the 
soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird " that they will 
really regulate their own diet so as to avoid eating an ancestor ; 
to men an integral part of whose religion may actually be the 
worship of beasts. Such beliefs belong even now to half man- 
kind, and among such the beast-stories had their first home. 
Even the Australians tell their quaint beast-tales, of the Kat, 

^ "Welcker, vol. i. p. 756. ^ Xenoph. Memorabilia, ii. 1. 


the Owl, and the fat Blackfellow, or of Pussy-brother who singed 
his friends' noses while they were asleep.^ The Kamchadals 
have an elaborate myth of the adventures of their stupid deity 
Kutka Avith the Mice who played tricks upon him, such as 
painting his face like a woman's, so that when he looked in the 
water he fell in love with himself.^ Beast-tales abound among 
such races as the Polynesians and the North American Indians, 
who value in them ingenuity of incident and neat adaptation of 
the habits and characters of the creatures. Thus in a legend of 
the Flathead Indians, the Little Wolf found in cloudland his 
grandsires the Spiders with their grizzled hair and long crooked 
nails, and they spun balls of thread to let him down to earth ; 
v/hen he came down and found his wife the Speckled Duck, 
whom the Old Wolf had taken from him, she fled in confusion, 
and that is why she lives and dives alone to this very day.^ In 
Guinea, where beast- fable is one of the great staples of native 
conversation, the following story is told as a type of the tales 
which in this way account for peculiarities of animals. The 
great Engena-monkey offered his daughter to be the bride of 
the champion who should perform the feat of drinking a whole 
baiTel of rum. The dignified Elephant, the graceful Leopard, 
the surly Boar, tried the first mouthful of the fire-water, and 
retreated. Then the tiny Telinga-monkey came, who had cun- 
ningly hidden in the long grass thousands of his fellows ; he took 
his first glass and went away, but instead of his coming back, 
another just like him came for the second, and so on till the 
barrel was emptied and Telinga walked off with the Monkey- 
king's daughter. But in the narrow path the Elephant and 
Leopard attacked him and drove him off, and he took refuge in 
the highest boughs of the trees, vowing never more to live on 
the ground and suffer such violence and injustice. This is why 
to this day the little telingas are only found in the highest tree- 
tops.* Such stories have been collected by scores from savage 
tradition in their original state, while as yet no moral lesson has 

1 Oldfield in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 259. 

2 Steller, * Kamtschatka, ' p. 255. 

3 Wilson in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iv. p. 306. 
* J. L. Wilson, *W. Afr.'p. 3S2. 

E B 2 


entered into them. Yet the easy and natural transition from 
the story into the parable is made among savages, perhaps with- 
out help from higher races. In the Hottentot Tales, side by 
side with the myths of the cunning Jackal tricking the Lion out 
of the best of the carcase, and getting the black stripe burnt on 
his own back by carrying off the Sun, there occurs the moral 
apologue of the Lion who thought himself wiser than his Mother, 
and perished by the Hunter's spear, for want of heed to her 
warning against the deadly creature whose head is in a line with 
his breast and shoulders.^ So the Zulus have a thorough moral 
apologue in the story of the hyrax, who did not go to fetch his 
tail on the day when tails were given out, because he did not 
like to be out in the rain ; he only asked the other animals to 
bring it for him, and so he never got it.^ Among the North 
American legends of Manabozho, there is a fable quite ^sopian 
in its humour. Manabozho, transformed into a Wolf, killed a 
fat moose, and being very hungry sat down to eat. But he fell 
into great doubts as to where to begin, for, said he, if I begin at 
the head, people will laugh and say, he ate him backwards, but 
if I begin at the side they will say, he ate him sideways. At 
last he made up his mind, and was just putting a delicate piece 
into his mouth, when a tree close by creaked. Stop, stop ! said 
he to the tree, I cannot eat with such a noise, and in spite of 
his hunger he left the meat and climbed up to quiet the creak- 
ing, but was caught between two branches and held fast, and 
presently he saw a pack of wolves coming. Go that way ! Go 
that way ! he cried out, whereupon the wolves said, he must 
have something there, or he would not tell us to go another 
way. So they came on, and found the moose, and ate it to the 
bones while Manabozho looked wistfully on. The next heavy 
blast of wind opened the branches and let him out, and he went 
home thinking to himself "See the effect of meddling with 
frivolous things when I had certain good in my possession."^ 
In the Old World, the moral Beast-fable was of no mean 

^ Bleek, 'Eeynard in S. Afr.' pp. 5, 47, 67 (these are not among the stories 
•which seem recently borrowed from Europeans). See 'Early History of Mankind,* 
p. 10. 

2 Callaway, 'Zulu Tales,' vol. i. p. 355. 

3 Schoolcraft, * Algic Kes.' vol. i. p. 160 ; see 43, 51. 


antiquity, but it did not at once supplant the animal-myths 
pure and simple. For ages the European mind was capable at 
once of receiving lessons of wisdom from the iEsopian crows and 
foxes, and of enjoying artistic but by no means edifying beast- 
stories of more primitive type. In fact the Babrius and Phsedrus 
collections were over a thousand years old, when the genuine 
Beast-Epic reached its fullest growth in the incomparable 
•* Reynard the Fox ; ' traceable in Jacob Grimm's view to an 
original Frankish composition of the 12th century, itself con- 
taining materials of far earlier date.^ Reynard is not a didactic 
poem, at least if a moral hangs on to it here and there it is 
often est a Macchiavellian one ; nor is it essentially a satire, 
sharply as it lashes men in general and the clergy in particular. 
Its creatures are incarnate qualities, the Fox of cunning, the 
Bear of strength, the Ass of dull content, the Sheep of guileless- 
ness. The charm of the narrative, which every class in mediaeval 
Europe delighted in, but which we have allowed to drop out of 
all but scholars' knowledge, lies in great measure in the cleverly 
■sustained combination of the beast's nature and the man's. How 
great the influence of the Reynard Epic was in the middle ages, 
may be judged from Reynard, Bruin, Chanticleer, being still 
names familiar to people who have no idea of their having been 
originally names of the characters in the great beast-fable. Even 
more remarkable are its traces in modern French. The donkey has 
its name of haudet from Baudoin, Baldwin the Ass. Common 
French dictionaries do not even contain the word goupil (yulpes), 
so effectually has the Latin name of the fox been driven out of 
use by his Frankish title in the Beast-Epic, Raginhard the 
Counsellor, Reinhart, Reynard, Renart, renard. The instruc- 
tive compositions which Grimm contemptuously calls " fables 
thinned down to mere moral and allegory," " a fourth watering 
of the old grapes into an insipid moral infusion," are low in 
^aesthetic quality as compared with the genuine beast-myths. 
Mythological critics will be apt to judge them after the manner 
of the child who said how convenient it was to have "Moral" 
printed in iEsop's Fables, that everybody might know what to 

^ Jacob Grimm, 'Reinhart Fuclis,' Introd. 


The want of power of abstraction which has ever had such 
disastrous effect on the behefs of mankind, confounding myth 
and chronicle, and crushing the spirit of history under the rub- 
bish of literahzed tradition, comes very clearly into view in the 
study of parable. The state of mind of the deaf, dumb, and 
blind Laura Bridgman, so instructive in illustrating the mental 
habits of uneducated though full-sensed men, displays in an 
extreme form the difficulty such men have in comprehending 
the unreality of any story. She could not be made to see that 
arithmetical problems were anything but statements of concrete 
fact, and when her teacher asked her, '' If you can buy a barrel 
of cider for four dollars, how much can you buy for one dollar ? " 
she replied quite simply, " I cannot give much for cider, because 
it is very sour." ^ It is a surprising instance of this tendency to 
concretism, that among people so civilized as the Buddhists, the 
most obviously moral beast-fables have become literal incidents 
of sacred history. Gautama, during his 550 jatakas or births, 
took the form of a frog, a fish, a crow, an ape, and various other 
animals, and so far were the legends of these transformations 
from mere myth to his followers, that there have been pre- 
served as relics in Buddhist temples the hair, feathers, and bones 
of the creatures whose bodies the great teacher inhabited. Now 
among the incidents which happened to Buddha during his 
series of animal births, he appeared as an actor in the familiar 
fable of the Fox and the Stork, and it was he who, when he was 
a Squirrel, set an example of parental virtue by trying to dry 
up the ocean with his tail, to save his young ones whose nest 
had drifted out to sea, till his persevering courage was rewarded 
by a miracle.^ To our modern minds, a moral which seems the 
very purpose of a story is evidence unfavourable to its truth as fact. 
But if even apologues of talking birds and beasts have not been 
safe from literal belief, it is clear that the most evident moral 
can have been but slight protection to parables told of possible 
and life-like men. It was not a needless precaution to state ex- 

* Account of Laura Bridgman, p. 120. 

^ Bowring, ' Siam,' voL i. p. 313 ; Hard}^ ' Manual of Budhism,' p. 98. See 
the fable of the * Crow and Pitcher' in Plin. x. 60, and Bastian, 'Mensch,' voL i. 
p. 76. 


plicitly of tlie New Testament parables that they were parables, 
and even this guard has not availed entirely. Mrs. Jameson 
relates some curious experience in the following passage : — " I 
know that I was not very young when I entertained no more 
doubt of the substantial existence of Lazarus and Dives than of 
John the Baptist and Herod ; when the Good Samaritan was as 
real a personage as any of the Apostles ; when I was full of 
sincerest pity for those poor foolish Virgins who had forgotten 
to trim their lamps, and thought them — in my secret soul — 
rather hardly treated. This impression of the literal actual 
truth of the parables I have since met with in many children, 
and in the uneducated but devout hearers and readers of the 
Bible ; and I remember that when I once tried to explain to a 
good old woman the proper meaning of the word parable, and 
that the story of the Prodigal Son was not a fact, she was scan- 
dalized — she was c[uite sure that Jesus would never have told 
anything to his disciples that was not true. Thus she settled 
the matter in her own mind, and I thought it best to leave it 
there undisturbed."^ Nor, it may be added, has such mis- 
conception been confined to the minds of the poor and ignorant. 
St. Lazarus, patron saint of lepers and their hospitals, and from 
whom the lazzarone and the lazzaretto take their name, ob- 
viously derives these qualities from the Lazarus of the parable. 

The proof of the force and obstinacy of the mythic faculty, 
thus given by the relapse of parable into pseudo-history, may 
conclude this dissertation on mythology. In its course there 
have been examined the processes of animating and personifying 
nature, the formation of legend by exaggeration and perversion 
of fact, the stiffening of metaphor by mistaken realization of words, 
the conversion of speculative theories and still less substantial 
fictions into pretended traditional events, the passage of myth 
into miracle-legend, the definition by name and place given to any 
floating imagination, the adaptation of mythic incident as moral 
example, and the incessant crystallization of story into history. 
The investigation of these intricate and devious operations has 
brought ever more and more broadly into view two principles 
of mythologic science. The first is that legend, when classified on 

1 Jameson, ' History of Our Lord in Art,' vol. i. p. 375. 


a sufficient scale, displays a regularity of development which the 
notion of motiveless fancy quite fails to account for, and which 
must be attributed to laws of formation w^hereby every story, 
/ old and new, has arisen from its definite origin and sufficient 
/ cause. So uniform indeed is such development, that it becomes 
[ possible to treat myth as an organic product of mankind at 
i large, in which individual, national, and even racial distinctions 
stand subordinate to universal qualities of the human mind. 
The second principle concerns the relation of myth to history. 
It is true that the search for mutilated and mystified traditions 
of real events, which formed so main a part of old mythological 
researches, seems to grow" more hopeless the farther the study 
of legend extends. Even the fragments of real chronicle found 
embedded in the mythic structure are mostly in so corrupt a 
state, that far from their elucidating history, they need history 
to elucidate them. Yet unconsciously, and as it were in spite 
of themselves, the shapers and transmitters of poetic legend 
have preserved for us masses of sound historical evidence. They 
moulded into mythic lives of gods and heroes their own an- 
cestral heirlooms of thought and word, they displayed in the 
structure of their legends the operations of their own minds, 
they placed on record the arts and manners, the philosophy and 
religion of their own times, times of which formal history has 
' often lost the very memory. Myth is the history of its authors, 
I not of its subjects ; it records the lives, not of superhuman 
\ heroes, but of poetic nations. 



Eeligious ideas generally appear among low races of Mankind — Negative state- 
ments on this subject frequently misleading and mistaken : many cases 
uncertain — Minimum definition of Religion — Doctrine of Spiritual Beings, 
here termed Animism — Animism treated as belonging to Natural lieligion 
— Animism divided into two sections, the philosophy of Souls, and of other 
Spirits — Doctrine of Souls, its prevalence and definition among the loAver 
races— Definition of Apparitional Soul or Ghost-Soul — It is a theoretical 
conception of primitive Philosophy, designed to account for phenomena 
now classed under Biology, especially Life and Death, Health and Disease, 
Sleep and Dreams, Trance and Visions —Relation of Soul in name 
and nature to Shadow, Blood, Breath — Division or Plurality of Souls — 
Soul cause of Life ; its restoration tor body when supposed absent — Exit of 
Soul in Trances—Dreams and Visions : theory of exit of dreamer's or seer's 
own soul ; theory of visits received by them from other souls— Ghost-Soul 
seen in Apparitions — Wraiths and Doubles — Soul has form of body ; suffers 
mutilation with it — Voice of Ghost — Soul treated and defined as of Material 
Substance ; this appears to be the original doctrine — Transmission of Souls 
to serWce in future life by Funeral Sacrifice of wives, attendants, &c. — Souls 
of Animals — Their transmission by Funeral Sacrifice — Souls of Plants — Souls 
of Objects — Their transmission by Funeral Sacrifice — Relation of savage 
doctrine of Object-Souls to Epicurean theory of Ideas — Historical development 
of Doctrine of Souls, from the Ethereal Soul of primitive Biology to the Im- 
material Soul of modern Theology. 

Are there, or have there been, tribes of men so low in culture 
as to have no religious conceptions whatever ? This is practi- 
cally the question of the universality of religion, which for so 
many centuries has been affirmed and denied, with a confidence 
in striking contrast to the imperfect evidence on which both 
affirmation and denial have been based. Ethnographers, if 
looking to a theory of development to explain civilization, and 
regarding its successive stages as arising one from another, 
would receive with peculiar interest accounts of tribes devoid of 


all religion. Here, they would naturally say, are men wlio have 
no religion because their forefathers had none, men who repre- 
sent a prse-religious condition of the human race, out of which 
in the course of time religious conditions have arisen. It does 
not, however, seem advisable to start from this ground in an in- 
vestigation of religious development. Though the theoretical 
niche is ready and convenient, the actual statue to fill it is not 
forthcoming. The case is in some degree similar to that of the 
tribes asserted to exist without language or without the use of 
fire ; nothing in the nature of things seems to forbid the possi- 
bility of such existence, but as a matter of fact the tribes are 
not found. Thus the assertion that rude non-religious tribes 
have been known in actual existence, though in theory pos- 
sible, and perhaps in fact true, does not at present rest on that 
suflacient proof which, for an exceptional state of things, we are 
entitled to demand. 

It is not unusual for the very writer who declares in general 
terms the absence of religious phenomena among some savage 
people, himself to give evidence that shows his expressions to be 
misleading. Thus Dr. Lang not only declares that the abo- 
rigines of Australia have no idea of a supreme divinity, creator, 
and judge, no object of worship, no idol, temple, or sacrifice, but 
that, " in short, they have nothing whatever of the character of 
religion, or of religious observance, to distinguish them from the 
beasts that perish." More than one writer has since made use 
of this telling statement, but without referring to certain de- 
tails which occur in the very same book. From these it appears 
that a disease like small-pox, which sometimes attacks the 
natives, is ascribed by them " to the influence of Budyah, an 
evil spirit who delights in mischief;" that when the natives 
rob a wild bees' hive, they generally leave a little of the honey 
for Buddai ; that at certain biennial gatherings of the Queensland 
tribes, young girls are slain in sacrifice to propitiate some evil 
divinity ; and that lastly, according to the evidence of the Kev. 
W. Ridley, " whenever he has conversed with the aborigines, he 
found them to have definite traditions concerning supernatural 
beings, Baiame, whose voice they hear in thunder, and who 
made all things, Turramullun the chief of demons, who is the 


author of disease, mischief, and wisdom, and appears in the form 
of a serpent at their great assembUes, etc."^ By the concurring 
testimony of a crowd of observers, it is known that the natives 
of AustraHa were at their discovery, and have since remained, a 
race with minds saturated vvith the most vivid belief in souls, 
demons, and deities. In Africa, Mr. Moffat's declaration as to 
the Bechuanas is scarcely less surprising — that "man's immor- 
tality was never heard of among that people," he having re- 
marked in the sentence next before, that the word for the shades 
or manes of the dead is " liriti." ^ In South America, again, 
Don Felix de Azara comments on the positive falsity of the 
ecclesiastics' assertion that the native tribes have a reliq-ion. 
He simply declares that they have none ; nevertheless in the 
course of his work he mentions such facts as that the Payaguas 
bury arms and clothing with their dead and have some notions of 
a future life, and that the Guanas believe in a Being who re- 
wards good and punishes evil. In fact, this author's reckless 
denial of religion and law to the lower races of this region 
justifies D'Orbigny's sharp criticism, that " this is indeed what he 
says of all the nations he describes, while actually proving the 
contrary of his thesis by the very facts he alleges in its support.''^ 
Such cases show how deceptive are judgments to which 
breadth and generality are given by the use of wide words in 
naiTOW senses. Lang, Moffat, and Azara are authors to whom 
ethnography owes much valuable knowledge of the tribes they 
visited, but they seem hardly to have recognized anything short 
of the organized and established theology of the higher races as 
being religion at all. They attribute irreligion to tribes whose 
doctrines are unlike theirs, in much the same manner as theolo- 
gians have so often attributed atheism to those whose deities 
differed from their own, from the time when the ancient in- 
vading Aryans described the aboriginal tribes of India as 
adeva, i.e., "godless," and the Greeks fixed the corresponding 

^ J. D. Lang, * Queensland,' pp. 340, 374, 380, 388, 444 (Buddai appears, p. 
379, as causing a deluge ; he is probably identical with Ludyah). 

' Moffat, ' South Africa,' p. 261. 

3 Azara, ' Voy. dans I'Amerique Mdridionale,' vol. ii. pp. 3, 14, 25, 51, GO, 91, 
119, etc. ; D'Orbigny, ' L' Homme Americain,' vol. ii. p. 318. 


term of aOeoL on the early Christians as unbelievers in the 
classic gods, to the comparatively modern ages when disbelievers 
in witchcraft and apostolical succession were denounced as 
atheists, and down to our own day, when controversialists are apt. 
to infer, as in past centuries, that naturalists who support a theory 
of development of species therefore necessarily hold atheistic 
opinions.^ These are in fact but examples of a general perver- 
.sion of fair and open judgment in theological matters, among 
the results of which is a popular misconception of the religions 
of the lower races, simply amazing to students who have 
reached a higher point of view. Some missionaries, no doubt, 
thoroughly understand the minds of the savages they have to 
deal with, and indeed it is from men like Cranz, Dobrizhofifer, 
Charlevoix, Ellis, Hardy, Callaway, J. R. Wilson, T. Williams, 
that we have obtained our best knowledge of the lower phases 
of religious belief. But for the most part the " religious world " 
is so occupied in hating and despising the beliefs of the heathen 
whose vast regions of the globe are painted black on the mis- 
sionary maps, that they have little time or capacity left to 
understand them. It cannot be so with those who fairly seek 
to comprehend the nature and meaning of the lower phases of 
religion. These, while fully alive to the absurdities believed 
and the horrors perpetrated in its name, will yet regard with 
kindly interest all records of men's earnest seeking after truth 
with such light as they could find. Such students will look for 
meaning, however crude and childish, at the root of doctrines 
often most dark to the believers who accept them most zealously ; 
they will search for the reasonable thought which once gave 
life to observances now become in seeming or reality the most 
abject and superstitious folly. The reward of these enquirers 
will be a more rational comprehension of the faiths in whose 
midst they dwell, for no more can he who understands but one 
religion understand even that religion, than the man who 
knows but one language can understand that language. The 
basis of theological science must be historical as well as eviden- 

1 Miiir, * Sanskrit Texts,' part ii. p. 435 ; Euseb. 'Hist. Eccl.' iv. 15 ; Bing- 
ham, book i. cli. ii. ; Vanini, ' De Admirandis Naturje Arcanis,' dial. 37 ; Lecky, 
'Hist, of Nationalism,' vol. i. p. 126 ; Encyclop. Brit. s. v. 'Superstition.' 


tial, its arguments must recognize the evolution of religious 
doctrines, and by separating the effects of tradition from the 
effects of direct conviction, leave free the discussion of objective 
truth. No religion of mankind lies in utter isolation from the 
rest, and the thoughts and principles of modern Christianity 
are attached to intellectual clues which run back through far 
prse- Christian ages to the very origin of human civilization, 
perhaps even of human existence. 

While observers who have had fair opportunities of studying 
the religions of savages have thus sometimes done scant justice 
to the facts before their eyes, the hasty denials of others who 
have judged without even facts can carry no great weight. A 
Ib'th-century traveller gave an account of the natives of Florida 
which is typical of such : " Touching the religion of this people, 
which wee have found, for want of their language w^ee could not 
understand neither by signs nor gesture that they had any reli- 
gion or lawe at all We suppose that they have no reli- 
gion at all, and that they live at their own libertie." ^ Better 
knowledge of these Floridans nevertheless showed that they 
had a religion, and better knowledge has reversed many another 
hasty assertion to the same effect ; as when writers used to 
declare that the natives of Madagascar had no idea of a future 
state, and no word for soul or spirit ; ^ or wdien Darnpier en- 
quired after the religion of the natives of Timor, and was told 
that they had none ; ^ or when Sir Thomas Roe landed in Sal- 
danha Bay on his way to the court of the Great Mogul, and 
remarked of the Hottentots that " they have left off their 
custom of stealing, but know no God or religion." ^ Among the 
numerous accounts collected by Sir John Lubbock as evidence 
bearing on the absence or low development of religion among 
low races, ^ some may be selected as lying open to criticism from 
this point of view. Thus the statement that the Samoan 

^ J. de Verrazano in Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 300. 

-See Ellis, 'Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 429; Flacourt, 'Hist, de Madagascar,* 
p. 59. 

* Dampier, * Voyages,' vol. ii. part ii. p. 76. 
*• Roe in Pinkerton, vol. viii. p. 2. 

* Lubbock, ' Piehistoric Times,' p. 564 : see also ' Origin of Civilization,' 
p. 138. 


Islanders had no religion cannot stand in face of the elaborate 
description by the Rev. G. Turner of the Samoan religion itself ; 
and the assertion that the Tupinambas of Brazil had no religion 
is one not to be received without some more positive proof, for the 
religious doctrines and practices of the Tupi race have been 
recorded by Lery, De Laet, and other writers. Even with much 
time and care and knowledge of language, it is not always easy 
to elicit from savages the details of their theology. They rather 
try to hide from the prying and contemptuous foreigner their 
worship of gods who seem to shrink, like their worshippers, 
before the white man and his mightier Deity. And thus, even 
where no positive proof of religious development among any 
particular tribe has reached us, we should distrust its denial by 
observers whose acquaintance with the tribe in question has not 
been intimate as well as kindly. Assertions of this sort are 
made very carelessly. Thus it is said of the Andaman Islanders 
that they have not the rudest elements of a religious faith ; Dr. 
Mouat states this explicitly,^ yet it appears that the natives did 
not even display to the foreigners the rude music which they 
actually possessed, so that they could scarcely have been ex- 
pected to be communicative as to their theology, if they had 
any. In our time the most striking negation of the religion of 
savage tribes is that published by Sir Samuel Baker, in a paper 
read in 1866 before the Ethnological Society of London, as fol- 
lows : " The most northern tribes of the White Nile are the 
Dinkas, Shillooks, Nuehr, Kytch, Bohr, Aliab, and Shir. A 
general description will suffice for the whole, excepting the 
Kytch. Without any exception, they are without a belief in a 
Supreme Being, neither have they any form of worship or 
idolatry; nor is the darkness of their minds enlightened by 
even a ray of superstition." Had this distinguished explorer 
spoken only of the Latukas, or of other tribes hardly known to 
ethnographers except through his own intercourse with them, 
his denial of any religious consciousness to them would have 
been at least entitled to stand as the best procurable account, 
until more intimate communication should prove or disprove it. 
But in speaking thus of comparatively well known tribes such 

1 Monat, 'Andaman Islanders,' pp. 2, 279, 303. 


as the Dinkas, Shilluks, and Nuelir, Sir S. Baker ignores the 
existence of published evidence, such as describes tiie sacrifices 
of the Dinkas, their belief in good and evil spirits (adjok and 
djyok), their good deity and heaven -dwelling creator, Dendid, 
as likewise Near the deity of the Nuehr, and the Shilluks' 
creator, who is described as visiting, like other spirits, a sacred 
wood or tree. Kaufmann, Brun-Rollet, Lejean, and other 
observers, had thus placed on record details of the religion of 
these White Nile tribes, years before Sir S. Baker's rash denial 
that they had any religion at all. ^ 

The first requisite in a systematic study of the religions of 
the lower races, is to lay down a rudimentary definition of 
religion. By requiring in this definition the belief in a 
supreme deity or of judgment after death, the adoration of 
idols or the practice of sacrifice, or other partially-diffused 
doctrines or rites, no doubt many tribes may be excluded from 
the category of religious. But such narrow definition has the 
fault of identifying religion rather with particular developments 
than with the deeper motive which underlies them. It seems 
best to fall back at once on this essential source, and simply to 
claim, as a minimum definition of Religion, the belief in 
Spiritual Beings. If this standard be applied to the descrip- 
tions of low races as to religion, the following results will 
appear. It cannot be positively asserted that every existing 
tribe recognizes the belief in spiritual beings, for the native 
condition of a considerable number is obscure in this respect, 
and from the rapid change or extinction they are undergoing, 
may ever remain so. It would be yet more unwarranted to set 
down every tribe mentioned in history, or known to us by the 
discovery of antiquarian relics, as necessarily having possessed 

1 Baker, ' Eaces of the Nile Casin,' in Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. v. p. 231 ; * The 
Albert Nyanza,* vol, i. p. 246, See Kaufmann, ' Schilderungen aus Central- 
afrika,' p. 123 ; Brun-Kollet, ' Le Nil Blanc et le Soudan,' pp. 100, 222, also pp. 
1G4, 200, 234 ; G. Lejeanin ' Rev. des Deux M.' April 1, 1862, p. 760 ; Waitz, 
'Anthropologie,' vol. ii. p. 72-5; Bastian, ' Mensch,' vol. iii. p. 203. Other 
recorded cases of denial of religion of savage tribes on narrow definition or inade- 
quate evidence may be found in Meiner's ' Gesch. der Rel.' vol. i. pp. 11-15 
(Australians and Californians) ; Waitz, 'Anthropologie,' vol. i. p. 323 (Aru Is- 
landers, etc.); Farrar in 'Anthrop. Rev.' Aug. 1864, p. ccxvii. (Kafirs, etc.); 
Jl'artius, * Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 583 (Manaos). 


the defined minimum of religion. Greater still would be the un- 
wisdom of declaring such a rudimentary belief natural or in- 
stinctive in all human tribes of all times ; for no evidence justifies 
the opinion that man, known to be capable of so vast an intel- 
lectual development, cannot have emerged from a non-religious 
condition, previous to that religious condition in which he hap- 
pens at present to come with sufftcient clearness within our 
range of knowledge. It is desirable, however, to take our basis 
of enquiry in observation rather than from speculation. Here, 
so far as I can judge from the immense mass of accessible evi- 
dence, we have to admit that the belief in spiritual beings 
appears among all low races with whom we have attained to 
thoroughly intimate acquaintance, whereas the assertion of 
absence of such belief must apply either to ancient tribes, or to 
more or less imperfectly described modern ones. The exact 
bearing of this state of things on the problem of the origin of 
religion may be thus briefly stated. Were it distinctly proved 
that non-religious savages exist or have existed, these might be 
at least plausibly claimed as representatives of the condition of 
Man before he arrived at the religious stage of culture. It is 
not desirable, however, that this argument should be put for- 
ward, for the asserted existence of the non-religious tribes in 
question rests, as we have seen, on evidence often mistaken and 
never conclusive. The argument for the natural evolution of 
religious ideas among mankind is not invalidated by the rejec- 
tion of an ally too weak at present to give effectual help. Non- 
religious tribes may not exist in our day, but the fact bears no 
more decisively on the development of religion, than the impos- 
sibility of finding a modern English village without scissors or 
books or lucifer-matches bears on the fact that there was a time 
when no such things existed in the land. 

I purpose here, under the name of Animism, to investigate 
the deep-lying doctrine of Spiritual Beings, which embodies the 
very essence of Spiritualistic as opposed to Materialistic philo- 
sophy. Animism is not a new technical term, though now 
seldom used.^ From its special relation to the doctrine of the 

^ The term has been especially used to denote the doctrine of Stahl, the pro- 
mulgator also of the plilogiston-theory. The ADimism of Stahl is a revival p,nd 


soul, it will be seen to have a peculiar "appropriateness to the 
view here taken of the mode in which theological ideas have 
been developed among mankind. The word Spiritualism, 
though it may be, and sometimes is, used in a general sense, 
has this obvious defect to us, that it has become the designation 
of a particular modern sect, who indeed hold extreme spiritual- 
istic views, but cannot be taken as typical representatives of 
these views in the world at large. The sense of Spiritualism in 
its wider acceptation, the general doctrine of spiritual beings, is 
here given to Animism. 

Animism characterizes tribes very low in the scale of hu- 
manity, and thence ascends, deeply modified in its transmission, 
but from first to last preserving an unbroken continuity, into 
the midst of high modern culture. Where doctrines adverse to 
it are held by individuals or schools, they are usually to be 
accounted for as due not to early lowness of civilization, but to 
later changes in the intellectual course, to divergence from, or 
rejection of, ancestral faiths, and such newer developments da 
not affect the present enquiry as to a fundamental religious 
condition of mankind. Animism is, in fact, the groundwork of 
the Philosophy of Keligion, from that of savages up to that of 
civilized men. And although it may at first sight seem to afford 
but a bare and meagre definition of a minimum of religion, it 
will be found practically sufficient ; for, where the root is, the 
branches will generally be produced. It is habitually found 
that the theory of Animism divides into two great dogmas 
forming parts of one consistent doctrine ; first, concerning souls 
of individual creatures, capable of continued existence after the 
death or destruction of the body ; second, concerning other 
spirits, upward to the rank of powerful deities. Spiritual beings 
are held to affect or control the events of the material world, 
and man's life here and hereafter ; and it being considered that 
they hold intercourse with men, and receive pleasure or dis- 
pleasure from human actions, the belief in their existence leads 
naturally, and it might almost be said inevitably, sooner or 

development in modern scientific shape of the classic theory identifying vital princi- 
ple and soul. See his ' Theoria Medica Yera,' Halle, 1737 ; and the critical disser- 
tation on his views, Lemoine, * Le Vitalisme et I'Animisme de Stahl,' Paris, 1864. 
VOL. I. c c 


later to active reverence and propitiation. Thus Animism, in 
its full development, includes the belief in controlling deities 
and subordinate spirits, in souls, and in a future state, these 
doctrines practically resulting in some kind of active worship. 
One great element of religion, that moral element which to us 
forms its most vital part, is indeed little represented in the reli- 
gion of the lower races. It is not that these races have no moral 
sense or no moral standard, for both are strongly marked among 
them, if not in formal precept, at least in that traditional con- 
sensus of society which we call public opinion, according to which 
certain actions are held to be good or bad, right or wrong. It is 
that the conjunction of ethics and Animistic philosophy, so inti- 
mate and powerful in the higher culture, seems scarcely yet to 
have begun in the lower. I propose here hardly to touch upon the 
purely moral aspects of religion, but rather to study the animism 
of the world so far as it constitutes, as unquestionably it does 
constitute, an ancient and world-wide philosophy of which 
belief is the theory and worship is the practice. Endeavouring 
to shape the materials for an enquiry hitherto strangely under- 
valued and neglected, it will now be my task to bring as clearly 
as may be into view the fundamental animism of the lower 
races, and in some slight and broken outline to trace its course 
into higher regions of civilization. Here let me state once for 
all two principal conditions under which the present research is 
carried on. First, as to the religious doctrines and practices 
examined, these are treated as belonging to theological systems 
devised by human reason, without supernatural aid or revela- 
tion ; in other words, as being developments of Natural Ueli- 
gion. Second, as to the connexion between similar ideas and 
rites in the religions of the savage and the civilized world.' 
While dwelling at some length on doctrines and ceremonies of 
the lower races, and sometimes particularizing for special 
reasons the related doctrines and ceremonies of the higher 
nations, it has not seemed my proper task to work out in detail 
the problems thus suggested among the philosophies and creeds 
of Christendom. Such applications, extending farthest from 
the direct scope of a work on primitive culture, are briefly 
stated in general terms, or touched in slight allusion, or taken 


for granted without remark. Educated readers possess the infor- 
mation required to work out their general bearing^ on theoloo-v 
while more technical discussion is left to professional theoloo-ians. 
The first branch of the subject to be considered is the 
doctrine of human and other Souls, an examination of which 
will occupy the rest of the present chapter. What the doctrine 
of the soul is among the lower races, may be explained by a theory 
of its development. It seems as though thinking men, as yet 
at a low level of culture, were deeply impressed by two groups 
of biological problems. In the first place, what is it that makes 
the difference between a living body and a dead one ; what 
causes waking, sleep, trance, disease, death? In the second 
place, what are those human shapes which appear in dreams 
and visions ? Looking at these two groups of phenomena, the 
ancient savage philosophers practically made each help to 
account for the other, by combining both in a conception which 
we may call an apparitional-soul, a ghost-soul. The conception 
of a personal soul or spirit among the. lower races may be 
defined as follows : It is a thin unsubstantial human imao^e 
m its nature a sort of vapour, film, or shadow ; the cause of 
life and thought in the individual it animates ; independently 
possessing the personal consciousness and volition of its cor- 
poreal owner, past or present ; capable of leaving the body far 
behind to flash swiftly from place to place ; mostly impalpable 
and invisible, yet also manifesting physical power, and especially 
appearing to men waking or asleep as a phantasm separate 
from the body of which it bears the likeness ; able to enter 
into, possess, and act in the bodies of other men, of animals, 
and even of things. Though this definition is by no means of 
universal application, it has sufficient generality to be taken as 
a standard, modified by more or less divergence among any 
particular people. Far from these world-wide opinions being 
arbitrary or conventional products, it is seldom even justifiable 
to consider their uniformity among distant races as proving 
communication of any sort. They are doctrines answering in the 
most forcible way to the plain evidence of men's senses, as 
interpreted by a fairly consistent and rational primitive philo- 
sophy. So well, indeed, does the theory account for the facts, 

c c 2 


that it has held its place into the higher levels of education. 
Though classic and mediaeval philosophy modified it much, and 
modern philosophy has handled it yet more unsparingly, it ha& 
so far retained the traces of its original character, that heir- 
looms of primitive ages may be claimed in the existing psycho- 
logy of the civilized world. Out of the vast mass of evidence, 
collected among the most various and distant races of mankind,, 
typical details may be selected to display the earlier theory of 
the soul, the relation of the parts of this theory, and the. 
manner in which these parts have been abandoned, modified, or 
kept up, along the course of culture. 

To understand the popular conceptions of the human soul or 
spirit, it is instructive to notice the words which have been 
found suitable to express it. The ghost or phantasm seen by 
the dreamer or the visionary is like a shadow, and thus the 
familiar term of the shade comes in to express the soul. Thus, 
the Tasmanian word for the shadow is also that for the spirit ; ^ 
the Algonquin Indians describe a man's soul as otahchuk, 
" his shadow ;"^ the Quiche language uses natiih for " shadow^ 
soul;"^ the Arawac iieja means "shadow, soul, image;"'*' the 
Abipones made the one word lodJcal serve for " shadow, soul,, 
echo, image." ^ The Zulus not only use the word tunzi for 
" shadow, spirit, ghost," but they consider that at death the 
shadow of a man will in some way depart from the corpse, to 
become an ancestral spirit.^ The Basutos not only call the spirit 
remaining after death the seriti or " shadow," but they think 
that if a man walks on the river bank, a crocodile may seize 
his shadow in the water and drav/ him in ;7 while in Old Calabar 
there is found the same identification of the spirit with the 
uJcpon or " shadow," for a man to lose which is fatal.^ There 

^ Bonwick, * Tasmanians, ' p. 182. 

2 Tanner's 'Narr.' ed. by James, p. 291. 

3 Brasseur, * Langue Quichee,' s. v. 

^ Martins, * Etlinog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 705 ; vol. ii. p. 310. 
* Dobrizhoffer, * Abipones,' vol. ii, p. 194. 

^ Dohne, ' Zulu Die' s, v. 'tunzi ; ' Callaway, * Eel, of Amazulu,' pp, 91, 126 ; 
' Zulu Tales,' vol, i. p, 342. 

7 Casalis, 'Basutos,' p. 245 ; Arbousset and Daumas, * Voyage,' p. 12, 

8 Burton, ' W, and W. fr, W, Afr,' p. 389 ; see Koelle, * Afr, Native Lit.' p. 
324 (Kanuri). Also ' Journ. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. v. p. 713 (Australian). 


are thus found among the lower races not only the types of 
those familiar classic terms, the slda or ttnihra, but also what 
seems the fundamental thought of the stories of shadowless 
men still current in the folklore of Europe, and familia-r to 
modern readers in Chamisso's tale of Peter Schlemihl. From 
various other vital ojDerations, other attributes are taken into 
■the notion of soul or spirit. Thus the Caribs, connecting the 
pulses with spiritual beings, and especially considering that in 
the heart dwells man's chief soul, destined to a future heavenly 
life, could reasonably use the one word iouanni for " soul, life, 
heart." -^ The Tongans supposed the soul to exist throughout 
the whole extension of the body, but particularly in the heart. 
On one occasion, the natives were declaring to a European that 
a man buried months ago was nevertheless still alive. " And 
one, endeavouring to make me understand what he meant, took 
hold of my hand, and squeezing it, said, ' This will die, but the 
life that is within you will never die;' v/ith his other hand 
pointing to my heart."" So the Basutos say of a dead man that 
his heart is gone out, and of one recovering from sickness that 
his heart is coming back.^ This corresponds to the familiar Old 
World view of the heart as the prime mover in life, thought, 
and passion. The connexion of soul and blood, familiar to the 
Karens and Papuas, appears prominently in Jewish and Arabic 
philosophy.* To educated moderns the idea of the Macusi 
Indians of Guiana may seem quaint, that although the body 
will decay, " the man in our eyes " will not die, but wander 
about.^ Yet the association of personal animation with the 
pupil of the eye is familiar to European folklore, which not un- 
Teasonably discerned a sign of bewitchment or approaching 
death in the disappearance of the image, pupil, or baby, from 
the dim eyeballs of the sick unan.^ 

The act of breathing, so characteristic of the higher animals 
during life, and coinciding so closely with life in its departure, 

» Rochefort, pp. 429, 516 ; J. G. Miiller, p. 207. 

2 Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 135 ; S. S. Farmer, 'Tonga,' etc. p. 131. 

3 Casali.s, 1. c. See also Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 135. 
^ Bastian, * Psychologie, ' pp. 15-23. 

5 J. H. Bernau, ' Brit. Guiana,' p. 134. 

c Grimm, ' D. M.' pp. 1028, 1133. Anglo-Saxon man-lica. 


has been repeatedly and naturally identified with the life or soul 
itself. Laura Bridgman showed in her instructive way the 
analogy between the effects of restricted sense and restricted 
civilization, when one day she made the gesture of taking some- 
thing away from her mouth : " I dreamed," she explained in 
words, " that God took away my breath to heaven.^ It is thus 
that West Australians used one word waiig for " breath, spirit, 
soul ; "^ that in the Netela language of California, pints means 
" life, breath, soul;"^ that certain Greenlanders reckoned two 
souls to man, namely his shadow and his breath ;* that the 
Malays say the soul of the dying man escapes through his 
nostrils, and in Java use the same word flawa for '' breath, 
life, soul."^ How the notions of life, heart, breath, and phantom 
unite in the one conception of a soul or spirit, and at the same 
time how loose and vague such ideas are among the lower races, 
is well brought into view in the answers to a religious inquest 
held in 1528 among the natives of Nicaragua. "When they 
die, there comes out of their mouth something that resembles 
a person, and is called julio [Aztec yuli=to live]. This being 
goes to the place where the man and woman are. It is like a 
person, but does not die, and the body remains here." Question. 
" Do those who go up on high keep the same body, the same 
face, and the same limbs, as here below ? " Answei\ " No ; 
there is only the heart." Question. " But since they tear out 
their hearts [i. e., when a captive was sacrificed], what happens 
then?" Answer. "It is not precisely the heart, but that in 
them v/hich makes them live, and that quits the body when 
they die." Or, as stated in another interrogatory, " It is not 
their heart that goes up above, but what makes them live, that 
is to say, the breath that issues from their mouth and is called 
julio!* ^ The conception of the soul as breath may be followed 
up through Semitic and Aryan etymology, and thus into the 
main streams of the philosophy of the world. Hebrew shows 

^ Lieber, * Laura Bridgman,' in Srnitlisonian Contrib. vol. ii. p. 8. 

2 G. F. Moore, ' Vocab. of W. Australia,' p. 103. 

^ Brinton, p. 50, see 235; Bastian, ' Psycliologie, ' p. 15. 

^ Cranz, * Gronland,' p. 257. 

* Crawfurd, 'Malay Gr. and Die' s. v. ; Marsden, 'Sumatra,' p. 3S6. 

* Oviedo, 'Hist, du Nicaragua,' pp. 21-51. 


nepJiesh, " breath," passing into all the meanings of " life, soul, 
mind, animal," while ruach and neshamah make the like tran- 
sition from "breath" to ''spirit;" and to these the Arabic 
nefs and ruh correspond. The same is the history of Sanskrit 
dtman a,nd prdiia, of Greek psyche and pneur)ia, of Latin 
animus, anima, spiritus. So Slavonic duch has developed the 
meaning of " breath " into that of soul or spirit ; and the dialects 
of the Gypsies have this word duJc with the meanings of " breath, 
spirit, ghost," whether these pariahs brought the word from India 
as part of their inheritance of Aryan siDcech, or whether they 
adopted it in their migration across Slavonic lands.^ German 
geist and English ghost, too, may possibly have the same original 
sense of breath. And if any should think such expressions due to 
mere metaphor, he may judge the strength of the implied con- 
nexion between breath and spirit by cases of most unequivocal 
significance. Among the Seminoles of Florida, when a woman 
died in childbirth, the infant was held over her face to receive 
her parting spirit, and thus acquire strength and knowledge for 
its future use. These Indians could have well understood why 
at the death-bed of an ancient Roman, the nearest kinsman 
leant over to inhale the last breath of the departing (et excipies 
hanc animam ore pio). Their state of mind is kept up to 
this day among Tyrolese peasants, who can still fancy a good 
man's soul to issue from his mouth at death like a little white 

It will be shown that men, in their composite and confused 
notions of the soul, have brought into connexion a list of mani- 
festations of life and thought even more multifarious than this. 
But also, seeking to avoid such perplexity of combination, they 
have sometimes endeavoured to define and classify more closely, 
especially by the theory that man has a combination of several 
kinds of spirit, soul, or image, to which different functions 
belong. Already among savage races such classification appears 

* Pott, * Zigeimer, vol. ii. p. 306; 'Indo.Germ. Wurzel-Worterbuch,' vol. i. 
p. 1073; Borrow, ' Lavengro,' vol. ii. ch. xxvi. "write the lil of him whose 
dooJc gallops down that hill every night, " .see vol. iii. ch. iv. 

2 Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' p. 253; Coram, in Yirg. ^n. iv. 684; 
Cic. Verr. v. 45; Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' p. 210 ; Rochholz, * Deutscher 
Glaube,* etc. vol. i. p. 111. 


in full vigour. Thus the Fijians distinguish between a man's 
"dark spirit" or shadow, which goes to Hades, and his "light 
spirit " or reflexion in water or a mirror, which stays near where 
he dies.^ The Malagasy say that the saina or mind vanishes 
at death, the aina or life becomes mere air, but the matoatoa 
or ghost hovers round the tomb.^ In North America, the duality 
of the soul is a strongly marked Algonquin belief; one soul goes 
out and sees dreams while the other remains behind ; at death 
one of the two abides with the body, and for this the survivors 
leave offerings of food, while the other departs to the land of the 
dead. A division into three souls is also known, and the Dakotas 
say that man has four souls, one remaining with the corpse, one 
staying in the village, one going in the air, and one to the land 
of spirits.^ The Karens distinguish between the ' la ' or ' kelah,' 
which may be defined as the personal life-phantom, and the 'thah' 
which is the responsible moral soul.* The fourfold division among 
the Khonds of Orissa is as follows : the first soul is that capable 
of beatification or restoration to Boora the Good Deity ; the second 
is attached to a Khond tribe on earth and is re-born generation 
after generation, so that at the birth of each child the priest asks 
which member of the tribe has returned ; the third goes out to 
hold spiritual intercourse, leaving the body in a languid state, 
and it is this soul w^hich can migrate for a time into a tiger ; the 
fourth dies on the dissolution of the body.^ Such classifications 
resemble those of higher races, as for instance the three-fold 
division of shade, manes, and spirit : 

*' Bis duo sunt homini, manes, caro, spiritus, umbra: 
Quatuor lisec loci bis duo suscipiunt. 
Terra tegit earn em, tumulum circumvolat umbra, 
Manes Orcushabet, spiritus astra petit." 

Not attempting to follow up the details of such psychical 

» Williams,' 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 241. . 

2 Ellis, ' Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 393. 

3 Charlevoix, vol. vi. pp. 75-8 ; Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part i. pp. 33, 
83, part iii. p. 229, part iv. p. 70 ; "Waitz, vol. iii. p. 194 ; J. G. Miiller, pp. 66, 
207, 8. 

■* Cross in * Journ. Amer. Oriental Soc' vol. iv. p. 310.] 

' Macpherson, pp. 91, 2. See also Klemm, * C. G.' vol. iii. p. 71 (Lapp.) ; St. 
John, 'Far East,' vol. i. p. 189 (Dayaks). 


division into the elaborate systems of literary nations, I shall 
not discuss the distinction which the ancient Egyptians seem to 
have made in the Ritual of the Dead between the man's ha, 
aJdi, ha, kkaha, translated by Mr. Birch as his "soul," "mind," 
"existence," "shade," or the Rabbinical division into what may be 
roughly described as the bodily, spiritual, and celestial souls, or 
the distinction between the emanative and genetic souls in 
Hindu philosophy, or the distribution of life, apparition, ances- 
tral spirit, among the three souls of the Chinese, or the demar- 
cations of the nous, psyche, and pneuma, or of the anima and 
animus, or the famous classic and mediseval theories of the 
vegetal, sensitive, and rational souls. SufEce it to point out 
here that such speculation dates back to the savage condition 
of our race, in a state fairly comparing as to scientific value with 
much that has gained esteem within the precincts of higher 
culture. It would be a difficult task to treat such classification 
on a consistent logical basis. Terms corresponding with those of 
life, mind, soul, spirit, ghost, and so forth, are not thought of as 
describing really separate entities, so much as the several forms 
and functions of one individual beinsf. Thus the confusion which 
here prevails in our own thought and language, in a manner 
typical of the thought and language of mankind in general, is 
in fact due not merely to vagueness of terms, but to an ancient 
theory of substantial unity which underlies them. Such ambi- 
guity of language, however, will be found to interfere little with 
the present enquiry, for the details given of the nature and 
action of spirits, souls, or phantoms, will themselves define the 
oxact sense such words are to be taken in. 

The early animistic theory of vitality, regarding the functions 
of life as caused by the soul, offers an explanation of several 
bodily and mental conditions by the theory of departure of the 
soul or some of its constituent spirits. This theory holds a wide 
and strong position in sava^ge biology. The South Australians 
express it when they say of one insensible or unconscious, that 
he is " wilyamarraba," i.e., "without soul."^ Among the Al- 
gonquin Indians of North America, we hear of sickness being 
accounted for by the patient's "shadow" being unsettled or 

^ Shiirmann, ' Vocab. of Parnkalla Lang.' s. v. 


detached from his body, and of the convalescent being reproached 
for exposing himself before his shadow was safely settled down 
in him ; where we should say that a man was ill and recovered, 
they would consider that he died, but came again. Another 
account from among the same race explains the condition of 
men lying in lethargy or trance ; their souls have travelled forth 
to the banks of the Eiver of Death, but have been driven back 
and return to re-animate their bodies.^ Among the Fijians, 
" when anyone faints or dies, their spirit, it is said, may some- 
times be brought back by calling after it ; and occasionally the 
ludicrous scene is witnessed of a stout man lying at full length, 
and bawling out lustily for the return of his own soul."^ To 
the negroes of North Guinea, derangement or dotage is caused 
by the patient being prematurely deserted by his soul, sleep 
being a more temporary withdrawal.^ Thus, in various coun- 
tries, the bringing back of lost souls becomes a regular part of 
the sorcerer's or priest's profession. The Salish Indians of 
Oregon regard the spirit as distinct from the vital principle, 
and capable of quitting the body for a short time without the 
patient being conscious of its absence ; but to avoid fatal conse- 
quences it must be restored as soon as possible, and accordingly 
the medicine-man in solemn form replaces it down through the 
patient's head.* The Turanian or Tatar races of Northern Asia 
strongly hold the theory of the soul's departure in disease, and 
among their Buddhist tribes the Lamas carry out the ceremony 
of soul-restoration in most elaborate form. When a man has 
been robbed by a demon of his rational soul, and has only his 
animal soul left, his sense and memory grow weak and he falls 
into a dismal state. Then the Lama undertakes to cure him, 
and with quaint rites exorcises the evil demon. But if this 
fails, then it is the patient's soul itself that cannot or will not 
find its way back. So the sick man is laid out in his best attire 
and surrounded with his most attractive possessions, the friends 
and relatives go thrice round the dwelling, affectionately calling 

* Tanner's 'Karr.' p. 291 ; Keating, 'Narr. of Long's Exp.' vol. ii. p. 154. 

2 Williams, ' Fiji,' vol. i. p. 242. 

3 J. L. Wilson, ' W. Afr.' p. 220. 

^ Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 319. 


back the soul by name, while as a further inducement the Lama 
reads from his book descriptions of the pains of hell, and the 
dangers incurred by a soul which wilfully abandons its body, 
and then at last the whole assembly declare with one voice that 
the wandering spirit has returned and the patient will recover.^ 
The Karens of Birma will run about pretending to catch a sick 
man's wandering soul, or as they say with the ancient Greeks, 
his "butterfly" (leip-pya), and at last drop it down upon his 
head. The Karen doctrine of the la is indeed a perfect and 
well-marked vitalistic system. This la, soul, ghost, or genius, 
may be separated from the body it belongs to, and it is a matter 
of the deepest interest to the Karen to keep his la with him, by 
calling it, making offerings of food to it, and so forth. It is 
especially when the body is asleep, that the soul goes out and 
wanders ; if it is detained beyond a certain time, disease ensues, 
and if permanently, then its owner dies. When the "wee" or 
spirit-doctor is employed to call back the departed shade or life 
of a Karen, if he cannot recover it from the region of the dead, 
he will sometimes take the shade of a living man and transfer 
it to the dead, while its proper owner, whose soul has ventured 
out in a dream, sickens and dies. Or when a Karen becomes 
sick, languid and pining from his la having left him, his friends 
will perform a ceremony with a garment of the invalid's and a 
fowl which is cooked and offered with rice, invoking the spirit 
with formal prayers to come back to the patient.^ This cere- 
mony is perhaps ethnologically connected, though it is not easy 
to say by what manner of diffusion or when, with a rite still 
practised in ChiEa. When a Chinese is at the point of death, 
and his soul is supposed to be already out of his body, a relative 
may be seen holding up the patient's coat on a long bamboo, to 
which a white cock is often fastened, while a Tauist priest by 
incantations brings the departed spirit into the coat, in order to 
put it back into the sick man. If the bamboo after a time 

^ Bastian, * Psychologie,' p. 34. Gmelin, * Eeisen durch Sibirien,' vol. ii. p. 
359 (Yakuts); Ravensteiu, 'Amur,' p, 351 (Tunguz). 

'^ Bastien, *Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 143 ; vol. ii. pp. 388, 418 ; vol. iii. p. 236. 
Mason, 'Karens,' 1. c. p. 196, etc. ; Cross, ' Karens,' in 'Jour. Amer. Oriental 
Soc' vol. iv. 1854, p. 307. See also St. John, ' Far East,' 1. c. (Dayaks). 


turns round slowly in the holder's hands, this shov/s that the 
spirit is inside the garment.^ 
.^Such temporary exit of the soul has a world-wide application 
to the proceedings of the sorcerer, priest, or seer himself. He 
professes to send forth his spirit on distant journeys, and pro- 
bably often believes his soul released for a time from its bodily 
prison, as in the case of that remarkable dreamer and visionary 
Jerome Cardan, who describes himself as having the faculty of 
passing out of his senses as into ecstasy whenever he will, feel- 
ing when he goes into this state a sort of separation near the 
heart as if his soul were departing, this state beginning from 
his brain and passing down his spine, and he then feeling only 
that he is out of himself^ Thus the Australian native doctor 
is alleged to obtain his initiation by visiting the world of spirits 
in a trance of two or three days' duration ; ^ the Khond priest 
authenticates his claim to office by remaining from one to four- 
teen days in a languid dreamy state, caused by one of his souls 
being away in the divine presence ; * the Greenland angekok's 
soul goes forth from his body to fetch his familiar demon ; ^ the 
Turanian shaman lies in lethargy while his soul departs to 
bring hidden wisdom from the land of spirits.^ The literature 
of more progressive races supplies similar accounts. A charac- 
teristic story from old Scandinavia is that of the Norse chief 
Ingimund, who shut up three Finns in a hut for three nights, 
that they might visit Iceland and inform him of the lie of the 
country where he was to settle ; their bodies became rigid, they 
sent their souls on the errand, and awakening after the three 
days they gave a description of the Yatnsdsel.'^ The typical 
classic case is the story of Hermotimos, whose prophetic soul 
went out from time to time to visit distant regions, till at last 
his wife burnt the lifeless body on the funeral pile, and when 

1 Doolittle, ' Chinese,' vol. i. p. 1.^0. 
^ Cardan, ' De Varietate Eerum,' Basil, 1556, cap. xliii. 
3 Stanbridge, * Abor. of Victoria,' in 'Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. p. 300. 
"* Macpberson, * India,' p. 103. 
5 Cranz, * Gronland, ' p. 2G9. 

« Kuhs, 'Finland,' p. 303 ; Castren, 'Finn. Myth.' p. 134 ; Bastian, 'Mensch,' 
vol. ii. p. 319. 

7 Vatnsdsela Saga ; Baring- Gould, 'Werewolves,' p. 29. 


the poor soul came back, tliere was no longer a dwelling for it 
to animate.! A group of the legendary visits to the spirit-world, 
which will be described in the next chapter, belong to this class. 
Atypical spiritualistic instance maybe quoted from Jung-StilUng, 
who says that examples have come to his knowledge of sick 
persons who, longing to see absent friends, have fallen into a 
swoon during which they have appeared to the distant objects 
of their affection.^ As an illustration from our own folklore, 
the well-known superstition may serve, that fasting watchers on 
St. John's Eve may see the apparitions of those doomed to die 
during the year come with the clergyman to the church door 
and knock ; these ajaparitions are spirits who come forth from 
their bodies, for the minister has been noticed to be much 
troubled in his sleep while his phantom was thus engaged, and 
when one of a party of watchers fell into a sound sleep and 
could not be roused, the others saw his apparition knock at the 
church door.^ Modern Europe has indeed kept closely enough 
to the lines of early philosophy, for such ideas to have little 
strangeness to our own time. Language preserves record of 
them in such expressions as " out of oneself," " beside one- 
self," " in an ecstasy," and he who says that his spirit goes 
forth to meet a friend, can still realize in the phrase a meaning 
deeper than metaphor. 

This same doctrine forms one side of the theory of dreams 
prevalent among the lower races. Certain of the Greenlanders, 
Cranz remarks, consider that the soul quits the body in the 
night and goes out hunting, dancing, and visiting ; their dreams, 
which are frequent and lively, having brought them to this 
opinion.* Among the Indians of North America, we hear of 
the dreamer's soul leaving his body and wandering in quest of 
things attractive to it. These things the waking man must 
endeavour to obtain, lest his soul be troubled, and quit the body 

^ Plin. vii. 53 ; Lucian. ITermotimus, Muse. Encom. 7. 

2 K. D. Owei), * Footfalls on the Boundary of another World,' p. 259. See A. 
R. Wallace, * Scientific Aspect of the Supernatural,' p. 43. 

3 Brand, ' Pop. Ant.' vol. i. p. 331, vol. iii. p. 236. See Calmet, * Diss, siir 
les Esprits;' Maury, 'Magie,' part ii. ch. iv. 

4 Cranz, * Gronland,' p. 257. 


altogether.! The New Zealanders considered the dreaming soul 
to leave the body and return, even travelling to the region of 
the dead to hold converse with its friends.^ The Tagals of 
Luzon object to waking a sleeper, on account of the absence of 
his soul.^ The Karens, whose theory of the wandering soul has 
just been noticed, explain dreams to be what this la sees and 
experiences in its journeys when it has left the body asleep. 
They even account with much acuteness for the fact that Ave are 
apt to dream of people and places which we knew before ; the 
leip-pya, they say, can only visit the regions where the body it 
belongs to has been already.^ Onward from the savage state, 
the idea of the spirit's departure in sleep may be traced into 
the speculative philosophy of higher nations, as in the Vedanta 
system, and the Kabbala.^ St. Augustine tells one of the 
double narratives which so well illustrate theories of this kind. 
The man who tells Augustine the story relates that, at home one 
night before going to sleep, he saw coming to him a certain 
philosopher, most well known to him, who then expounded to him 
certain Platonic passages, which when asked previously he had 
refused to explain. And when he (afterwards) enquired of this 
philosopher why he did at his house what he had refused to do 
when asked at his own : " I did not do it," said the philosopher, 
" but I dreamt I did." And thus, says Augustine, that was ex- 
hibited to one by phantastic image while waking, which the 
other saw in dream. ^ European folklore, too, has preserved in- 
teresting details of this primitive dream-theory, such as the 
fear of turning a sleeper over lest the absent soul should miss 
the way back. King Gunthram's legend is one of a group inter- 
esting from the same point of view. The king lay in the wood 
asleep with his head in his faithful henchman's lap ; the servant 
saw as it were a snake issue from his lord's mouth and run to 

^ Waltz, vol. iii. p. 195. 

2 Taylor, 'New Zealand,' pp. 104, 184, 333 ; Baker in *Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. i. 
p. 57. 

3 Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 319. 

^ Mason, 'Karens,' 1. c. p. 199 ; Cross, 1. c. ; Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. i. p. 
144, vol. ii. p. 389, vol. iii. p. 266. 

^ Bastian, ' Psychologic,' pp. 16-20 ; Eisenmenger, vol. i. p. 458, vol. ii. pp. 
13, 20, 453 ; Eranck, ' Kabbalc,' p. 235. 

^ Aiic(nstin. De Civ. Dei xviii. 18. 


the brook, but it could not pass, so the servant laid his sword 
across the water, and the creature ran along it and up into 
a mountain ; after a while it came back and returned into 
the mouth of the sleeping king, who waking told how he had 
dreamt that he went over an iron bridge into a mountain full of 
gold.^ This is one of those instructive legends which preserve 
for us, as in a museum, relics of an early intellectual condition 
of our Aryan race, in thoughts which to our modern minds have 
fallen to the level of quaint fancy, but which still remain sound 
and reasonable philosophy to the savage. A Karen at this day 
would appreciate every point of the story ; the familiar notion 
of spirits not crossing water, which he exemplifies in his Bur- 
mese forests by stretching threads across the brook for the 
ghosts to pass along ; the idea of the soul going forth embodied 
in an animal ; and the theory of the dream being a real journey 
of the sleeper's soul. Finally, this old belief still finds, as such 
beliefs so often do, a refuge in modern poetry : 

*' Yon child is dreaming far away, 
And is not wliere he seems." 

This opinion, however, only constitutes one of several parts of 
the theory of dreams in savage psychology. Another part has 
also a place here, the view that human souls come from Avithout 
to visit the sleeper, who sees them as dreams. These two views 
are by no means incompatible. The North American Indians 
allowed themselves the alternative of supposing a dream to be 
a visit from the soul of the person or object dreamt of, or a sight 
seen by the rational soul, gone out for an excursion while the 
sensitive soul remains in the body.^ So the Zulu may be visited 
in a dream by the shade of an ancestor, the itongo, V\^ho comes 
to warn him of danger, or he may himself be taken by the 
itongo in a dream to visit his distant people, and see that they 
are in trouble ; as for the man who is passing into the morbid 
condition of the professional seer, phantoms are continually 
coming to talk to him in his sleep, till he becomes, as the expres- 

1 Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 103G. 

2 Charlevoix, 'NouvcUe France,' vol. vi. p. 78. Loikiel, part i. p. 76. 


sive native phrase is, "a house of dreams."^ In the lower 
range of culture, it is perhaps most frequently taken for granted 
that a man's apparition in a dream is a visit from his disem- 
bodied spirit, which the dreamer, to use an expressive Ojibwa 
idiom, " sees when asleep." Such a thought comes out clearly 
in the Fijian opinion that a living man's spirit may leave the 
body, to trouble other people in their sleep ;^ or in a recent 
account of an old Indian woman of British Columbia sending 
for the medicine man to drive away the dead people who came 
to her every night.^ A modern observer's description of the 
state of mind of the negroes of South Guinea in this respect is 
extremely characteristic and instructive. " All their dreams are 
construed into visits from the spirits of their deceased friends. 
The cautions, hints, and warnings which come to them through 
this source, are received with the most serious and deferential 
attention, and are always acted upon in their waking hours. 
The habit of relating their dreams, which is universal, greatly 
promotes the habit of dreaming itself, and hence their sleeping 
hours are characterized by almost as much intercourse with the 
dead as their waking are with the living. This is, no doubt, 
one of the reasons of their excessive superstition sness. Their 
imaginations become so lively that they can scarcely distinguish 
between their dreams and their waking thoughts, between the 
real and the ideal, and they consequently utter falsehood with- 
out intending, and profess to see things which never existed."* 

To the Greek. of old, the dream-soul was what to the modern 
savage it still is. Sleep, loosing cares of mind, fell on Achilles as 
he lay by the sounding sea, and there stood over him the soul 
of Patroklos, like to him altogether in stature, and the beau- 
teous eyes, and the voice, and the garments that wrapped his 
skin ; he spake, and Achilles stretched out to grasp him with 
loving hands, but caught him not, and like a smoke the soul 

1 Callaway, ' Eelig. of Amazulu,' pp. 228, 260, 316. See also St. John, 'Far 
East,' vol. i. p. 199 (Dayaks). 

2 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 242. 

3 Mayne, * Brit. Columbia,' p. 261. 

4 J. L. Wilson, 'W. Africa,' p. 395, see 210. See also Ellis, * Polyn. Ees.' 
vol. i. p. 396 ; J. G. Miiller, ' Amer. Urrel.' p. 287 ; Buchanan, 'Mysore' in 
Pinkerton, vol. viii. p. 677 ; 'Early Hist, of Mankir.d,' p. 8. 


sped twittering below the earth. Along the ages that separate 
lis from Homeric times, tlie ajoparition in dreams of men living 
or dead has been a subject of philosophic speculation and of 
superstitious fear.^ Both the pha^ntom of the living and the 
ghost of the dead figure in Cicero's typical tale. Two Arcadians 
came to Meo-ara tos^ether, one lodo^ed at a friend's house, the 
other at an inn. In the night this latter appeared to his fellow- 
traveller, imploring his help, for the innkeeper was plotting 
his death ; the sleeper sprang up in alarm, but thinking the 
vision of no consequence went to slee|) again. Then a second 
time his companion appeared to him, to entreat that though he 
had failed to help, he would at least avenge, for the innkeeper 
had Idlled him and hidden his body in a dung-cart, wherefore 
he charged his fellow-traveller to be early next morning at the 
city-gate before the cart passed out. Struck with this second 
dream, the traveller went as bidden, and there found the cart ; 
the body of the murdered man was in it, and the innkeeper was 
brought to justice. '^ Quid hoc somnio dici potest divinius ? " ^ 
Augustine discusses with reference to the nature of the soul 
various dream-stories of his time, where the apparitions of men 
dead or living are seen in dreams. In one of the latter he 
himself figured, for when a disciple of his, Eulogius the rhetor of 
Carthage, once could not get to sleep for thinking of an obscure 
passage in Cicero's Rhetoric, that night Augustine came to him 
in a dream and explained it. But Augustine's tendency was 
toward the modern theory of dreams, and in this case he says 
it was certainly his image that appeared, not himself, who was 
far across the sea, neither knowing nor caring about the matter.^ 
As we survey the immense series of dream-stories of similar 
types in patristic, mediaeval, and modern literature, we may find 
it difficult enough to decide which are truth and which are fic- 
tion. But along the course of these myriad narratives of human 
phantoms appearing in dreams to cheer or torment, to warn or 
inform, or to demand fulfilment of their own desires, the problem 

^ Homer. II. xxiii. 59. See also Odyss. xi. 207, 222; Pori)hyr. De Autro 
Nympliarnm ; Virgil. iEii. ii. 794 ; Ovid. Fast. v. 475. 
^ Cicero De Divinatione, i. 27. 
3 Augustin. De Cura pro Mortuis, x.-xii. Epist. clviii. 

VOL. r. D 1) 


of dream-apparitions may Le traced in progress of gradual de- 
termination, from the earlier conviction that a disembodied soul 
really comes into the presence of the sleeper, toward the later 
opinion that such a phantasm is produced in the dreamer's mind 
without the perception of any external objective figure. 
/ The evidence of visions corresponds with the evidence of 
dreams in their bearing on jDrimitive theories of the soul, and 
the two classes of phenomena substantiate and supplement 
one another. Even in healthy waking life, the savage or bar- 
barian has never learnt to make that rigid distinction between 
subjective and objective, between imagination and reality, to 
enforce which is one of the main results of scientific education. 
Still less, when disordered in body and mind he sees around 
him phantom human forms, can he distrust the evidence of his 
very senses. Thus it comes to pass that throughout the lower 
civilization men believe, with the most vivid and intense belief, 
in the objective reality of the human spectres which they see 
in sickness or exhaustion, imder the influence of mental ex- 
citement or of narcotic drugs. As will be hereafter noticed, 
one main reason of the practices of fasting, penance, narcotizing, 
and other means of bringing on morbid exaltation, is that the 
patients may obtain the sight of spectral beings, from whom 
they look to gain spiritual knowledge and even worldly power. 
Human ghosts are among the principal of these phantasmal 
figures. There is no doubt that honest visionaries describe 
ghosts as they really appear to their perception, while even the 
impostors who pretend to see them conform to the descriptions 
thus established ; thus, in West Africa, a man's Ida or soul, be- 
coming at his death a sisa or ghost, can remain in the house 
with the corpse, but is only visible to the wong-man, the spirit- 
doctor.i Sometimes the phantom has the characteristic quality 
of not being visible to all of an assembled company. Thus the 
natives of the Antilles believed that the dead appeared on the 
roads when one went alone, but not when many went together f 

^ Steinhauser, ' lleligion des Negers,' in 'Magazin der Evang. Missionen,' Basel, 
1856, No. 2, p. 135. 

2 'Historie del S. D. Fernando Colombo,' tr. Alfonso Ulloa, Venice, 1571, p. 
127 ; Eng. Tr. in Pinkerton, vol. xii. p. 80. 



thus among the Finns the ghosts of the dead were to be seen b}?" 
the shamans, but not by men generally unless in dreams.^ Such 
is perhaps the meaning of the description of Samuel's ghost, 
visible to the witch of End or, v/hile Saul yet has to ask her what 
it is she sees.- Yet this test of the nature of an apparition is 
one which easily breaks down. We know well how in civilized 
countries a current rumour of some one having seen a phantom 
is enough to bring a sight of it to others whose minds are in a 
properly receptive state. The condition of the modern ghost- 
seer, whose imagination passes on such slight excitement into 
positive hallucination, is rather the rule than the exception 
among uncultured and intensely imaginative tribes, whose 
minds may be thrown off their balance by a touch, a word, a 
gesture, an unaccustomed noise. Among savage tribes, however, 
as among civilized races who have inherited remains of early 
philosophy formed under similar conditions, the doctrine of the 
visibility or invisibility of phantoms has been obviously shaped 
with reference to actual experience. To declare that souls or 
ghosts are necessarily either visible or invisible, would directly 
contradict the evidence of men's senses. But to assert or imply 
as the lower races do, that they are visible sometimes and to 
some persons, but not always or to every one, is to lay down an 
explanation of facts which is not indeed our usual modern ex- 
planation, but which is a perfectly rational and intelligible pro- 
duct of early science. 

Without discussing on their merits the accounts of what is 
called "second sight," it may be pointed out that they are 
related among savage tribes, as when Captain Jonathan Carver 
obtained from a Cree medicine-man a true prophecy of the 
arrival of a canoe with news next day at noon, or when Mr. J. 
Mason Brown, travelling with two voyageurs on the Coppermine 
River, was met by Indians of the very band he was seeking, 
these having been sent b}^ their medicine-man, who, on enquiry, 
stated that " He saw them coming, and heard them talk on their 
iournev."^ These are analoofous to accounts of the Hi^^hland 

1 Gastrin, ' Finn. Myth.' p. 120. 

2 I. Sam. xxviii. 12, 

3 Brintoii, ' Myths of New World,' p. 2G9. 

D D 2 

404 ANI^lISM. 

second-sight, as when Pennant heard of a gentleman of the- 
Hebrides, said to have the convenient gift of foreseeing visitors 
in time to get ready for them, or when Dr. Johnson was told 
by another laird that a labouring man of his had predicted his 
return to the island, cind described the peculiar livery his servant 
had been newly dressed in.^ 

As a general rule, people are apt to consider it impossible 
for a man to be in two places at once, and indeed a saying to 
that effect has become a popular saw. But the rule is so far 
from being universally accepted, that the word " bilocation " 
has been, invented to express the miraculous faculty possessed 
by certain Saints of the Roman Church, of being in two places 
at once ; like St. Alfonso di Liguori, who had the useful power 
of preaching his sermon in church while he was confessing 
jDenitents at home.^ The reception and explanation of these 
various classes of stories fits perfectly with the primitive anim- 
istic theory of apparitions, and the same is true of the most 
numerous class of the second-sight narratives. 

Death is the event which, in all stages of culture, brings 
thought to bear most intensely, though not always most 
healthily, on the problems of psychology. The apparition of 
the disembodied soul has in all ages been thought to bear 
especial relation to its departure from its body at death. This 
is well shown by the reception not only of a theory of ghosts, 
but of a special doctrine of " wraiths " or " fetches." Thus the 
Karens say that a man's spirit, appearing after death, may thus 
announce it.^ In New Zealand it is ominous to see the figure of 
an absent person, for if it be shadowy and the face not visible, 
his death may ere long be expected, but if the face be seen he 
is dead already. A party of Msioris (one of Avhom told the 
story) were seated round a fire in the open air, when there 
appeared, seen only by two of them, the figure of a relative left 
ill at home ; they exclaimed, the figure vanished, and on the 
return of the party it appeared that the sick man had died 

^ Pennant, '2nd Tour in Scotland,' in Pinkerton, vol. iii. p. 315 ; Johnson, 
'■ Jonrney to the Hebrides.' 
2 J. Gardner, ' Faiths of the World,' s. v. 'bilocation.' 
2 Mason, 'Karens,' 1. c. p. 198. 


about the time of the vision.^ Examining the position of the 
•doctrine of wraiths among the higher races, we find it especially 
prominent in three intellectual districts. Christian hagiology, 
popular folk-lore, and modern spiritualism. St. Anthony saw 
the soul of St. Ammonius carried to heaven in the midst of 
choirs of angels, the same day that the holy hermit died five 
days' journey off in the desert of Nitria ; when St. Ambrose 
died on Easter Eve, several newly-baptized children saw the 
holy bishop, and pointed him out to their parents, but these 
with their less pure eyes could not behold him ; and so forth.- 
Eolk-lore examples abound in Silesia and the Tyrol, v/here the 
gift of wraith-seeing still flourishes, with the customary details 
of funerals, churches, four-cross roads, and headless phantoms, 
and an especial association with New Year's Eve. The accounts 
•of *' second-sight " from North Britain mostly belong to a some- 
what older date. Thus the St. Kilda people used to be haunted 
by their ov/n spectral doubles, forerunners of impending death, 
and in 1799 a traveller writes of the peasants of Kircudbright- 
shire, " It is common among them to fancy that they see the 
wraiths of persons dying, which will be visible to one and 
«not to others present with him. Within these last twenty 
years, it was hardl;;, possible to meet with any person who had 
not seen many wraiths and ghosts in the course of his expe- 
rience." Those who discuss the authenticity of the second-sight 
stories as actual evidence, must bear in mind that they vouch 
not only for human apparitions, but for such phantoms as demon- 
dogs, and for still more fanciful symbolic omens. Thus a phan- 
tom shroud seen in spiritual vision on a living man predicts his 
death, immediate if it is up to his head, less nearly approaching 
if it is only up to his waist ; and to see in spiritual vision a 
spark of fire fall upon a person's arm or breast, is a forerunner 
of a dead child to be seen in his arms.^ As visionaries often see 

1 Shortland, 'Trads. of New Zealand,' p. 140; Polack, * M. and C. of New 
^ealanders,' vol. i. p. 268. See also Ellis, ' Madagascar,' vol, i. p. 393; J, G. 
Miiller, p. 261. 

2 Calmet, 'Diss, sur les Esprits,' vol. i. cli. xl, 

. 3 Wuttke, * Volksaberglaiibe,'pp. 44, 56, 208; Brand, 'Popular Antiquities,' 
vol. iii. pp. 155, 235 ; Johnson, 'Journey to the Hebrides ;' Martin, 'Western 
Islands of Scotland,' in Pinkerton, vol. iii. p. 670. 


phantoms of living persons without any remarkable event coin- 
ciding with their hallucinations, it is naturally admitted that a 
man's phantom or " double " may be seen without portending 
anything in particular. The spiritualistic theory specially in- 
sists on cases of apparition where the person's death corre- 
sponds more or less nearly with the time when some friend 
perceives his phantom.^ Narratives of this class are abundantly 
in circulation. Thus, I have an account by a lady, who "saw, 
as it were, the form of some one laid out," near the time when 
a brother died at Melbourne, and who mentions another ladv 
known to her, who thought she saw her own father look in at 
the church window at the moment he was dying in his own 
house. Another account is sent me by a Shetland lady, who 
relates that about twenty years ago she and a girl leading her 
pony recognized the familiar figure of one Peter Sutherland, 
Avhom they knew to be at the time in ill-health in Edinburgh ; 
he turned a corner and they saw no more of him, but next 
week came the news of his sudden death. 

That the apparition al human soul bears the likeness of its 
fleshly body, is the principle implicitly accepted by all who 
believe it really and objectively present in dream or vision. It 
is indeed habitually taken for granted in animistic philosophy, 
savage or civilized, that souls set free from the earthly body are 
recognized by a likeness to it which they still retain, whether 
as ghostly wanderers on earth, or inhabitants of the world 
beyond the grave. Man's spirit, says Swedenborg, is his mind, 
which lives after death in complete human form, and this is the 
poet's dictum in ' In Memoriam.' 

'/ Eternal form shall still divide 
The eternal soul from all beside ; 
And I shall know him when we meet." 

This world-wide thought, coming into view here in a multitude 
of cases from all grades of culture, needs no collection of ordi- 
nary instances to illustrate it. - But a quaint and special group of 

* See K. D. Owen, ' Footfalls on tlie Boundary of another AVorld' ; Mrs. Crowe, 
' Night- Side of Nature ; ' Howitt's Tr. of Ennemoser's * Magic,' etc. 
- The conception of the soul as a small human image is found in various 


beliefs will serve to display the thoroughness with which the soul 
is thus conceived as an image of the body. As a consistent corol- 
lary to such an opinion, it is argued that the mutilation of the 
body will have a corresponding effect upon the soul, and very low 
savage races have philosophy enough to work out this idea. 
Thus it was recorded of the Indians of Brazil by one of the 
early European visitors, that they "believe that the dead arrive 
in the other world wounded or hacked to pieces, in fact just as 
they left this.-^ Thus, too, the Australian who has slain his 
enemy will cut off the right thumb of the corpse, so that 
although the spirit will become a hostile ghost, it cannot throw 
with its mutilated hand the shadowy spear, and may be safely 
left to wander, malignant but harmless. ^ The negro fears long 
sickness before death, such as will send him lean and feeble into 
the next world. His theory of the mutilation of soul with body 
could not be brought more vividly into view than in that ugly 
story of the West India planter, whose slaves began to seek in 
suicide at once relief from present misery and restoration to 
their native land ; but the white man was too canning for them, 
he cut off the heads and hands of the corpses, and the survivors 
saw that not even death could save them from a master who 
could maim their very souls in the next world. ^ The same 
rude and primitive belief continues among nations risen far 
higher in intellectual rank. The Chinese hold in especial horror 
the punishment of decapitation, considering that he who quits 
this world lacking a member will so arrive in the next, and a 
case is recorded lately of a criminal at Amoy who for this reason 
begged to die instead by the cruel death of crucifixion, and was 
crucified accordingly.^ The series ends as usual in the folk- 
lore of the civilized world. The phantom skeleton in chains 

districts; sec Eyre, * Australia,' vol. ii. p. 356 ; St. John, * Far East,' vol. i. p. 
189 (Dayaks); Waitz, vol. iii. p. 194 (N. A. Ind.). The idea of a soul as a sort of 
"thunibling" is familiar to the Hindus and to German folk-lore ; compare tho 
representations of tiny souls in mediaeval pictures. 

^ Magalhanes de Gandavo, p. 110; Maffei, ' Indie Orientali,' p. 107. 

= Oldlield in ' Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 287. 

3 Waitz, vol. ii. p. 194 ; Romer, ' Guinea,' p. 42. 

-* Meiners, vol. ii. p. 756, 763 ; Purchas, vol. iii. p. 495 ; J. Jones in * Tr. Eth. 
Soc.' vol. iii. p. 138. 

408 animism:. 

that haunted the house at Bologna, showed the way to the 
garden where was buried the real chained fleshless skeleton it 
belonged to, and came no more when the remains had been 
duly buried. When the Earl of Cornwall met the fetch of his 
friend William Kufus carried black and naked on a black goat 
across the Bodmin moors, he sav/ that it Avas wounded through 
the midst of the breast ; and afterwards he heard that at that 
very hour the king had been slain in the New Forest by the 
arrow of Walter Tirell. -^ 

In studying the nature of the soul as conceived among the 
lower races, and in tracing such conceptions onward among the 
higher, circumstantial details are available. It is as widely 
recognized among mankind that souls or ghosts have voices, as 
that they have visible forms, and indeed the evidence for both 
is of the same nature. Men who perceive evidently that souls 
do talk when they present themselves in dream or vision, 
naturally take for granted at once the objective reality of the 
ghostly voice, and of the ghostly form from which it proceeds. 
This is involved in the series of narratives of spiritual communi- 
cations with living men, from savagery onward to civilization, 
while the more modern doctrine of the subjectivity of such pheno- 
mena recognizes the phenomena th'^mselves, but offers a different 
explanation of them. One special conception, however, requires 
particular notice. This defines the spirit- voice as being a low 
murmur, chirp, or whistle, as it were the ghost of a voice. The 
Algonquin Indians of North America could hear the shadow- 
souls of the dead chirp like crickets. ^ The New Zealand spirits 
of the dead, coming to converse with the living, utter their 
words in whistling tones, and such utterances by a squeaking 
noise are mentioned elsewhere in Polynesia. ^ The Zulu 
diviner's familiar spirits are ancestral manes, who talk in a low 
whistling tone short of a full whistle, whence they have their 
name of "imilozi" or whistlers.^ These ideas correspond with 

^ Calmet, vol. i. ch. xxxvi. ; Hunt, 'Pop. Romances,' vol. ii. p. 156. 
^ Le Jeune in ' Eel. des Jesuites dans la Nouvelle France,' 1639, p. 43. 
3 Sliortland, ' Trads. of N. Z.' p. 92 ; Yate, p. 140 ; K. Taylor, p. 104 ; Ellis, 
'Polyn. Pves.' vol. i. p. 406. 
^ Callaway, ' Eel. of Amazulu,' p. 348. 


classic descriptions of the ghostly voice, as a "twitter" or 
" thill murmur :" 

"rix^TO T€T/)i7U?a." ^ 

" Umbra cruenta Eemi visa est assistere lecto, 
Atque inec exiguo murmure verba loqui." ^ 

The beliefs that the a,ttributes of the soul or ghost extend to 
other spirit Lial beings, and that the utterances of such are to a 
great extent given by the voice of mediums, may lead us to 
connect these accounts with the practices of whispering or mur- 
muring charms, the "susurrus necromanticas" of sorcerers, to 
whom the already cited description of " wizards that peep (i. e. 
chirp) and mutter" is widely applicable.^ 

The conception of dreams and visions as caused by pre- 
sent objective figures, and the identification of such phantom 
souls with the shadow and the breath, has led many a 
people to treat souls as substantial material beings. Thus 
it is a usua,l proceeding to make openings through solid 
materials to allow souls to pass. The Iroquois in old times 
used to leave an opening in the grave for the lingering soul to 
visit its body, and some of them still bore holes in the coffin for 
the same purpose. ^ The Malagasy sorcerer, for the cure of a 
sick man who had lost his soul, would make a hole in the 
burial-house to let out a spirit, which he would catch in his cap 
and so convey to the patient's head. ^ The Chinese make a 
hole in the roof to let out the soul at death. ^ And lastly, the 
custom of opening a window or door for the departing soul when 
it quits the body is to this day a very familiar superstition in 
France, Germany, and England. '^ Again, the souls of the dead are 
thought susceptible of being beaten, hurt, and driven like any 

1 Homer. Il.xxiii. 100. 
' Ovid. Fast. V. 457. 
3 Isaiah, viii. 19 ; xxix. 4. 
^ Morgan, 'Iroquois,' p. 176. 
* Flacourt, 'Madagascar,' p. 101. 

^ Bastian, * Psychologie,' p. 15. . * . • 

7 Monnier, 'Traditions Populaires,' p. 142; Wuttke, * Volksaberglaube,' p. 
209 ; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 801 ; Meiners, vol. ii. p. 761. 


other living creatures. Thus the Queensland aborigines would 
beat the air in an annual mock fight, held to scare away the 
souls that death had let loose among the living since last year. ^ 
Thus North American Indians, when they had tortured an 
enemy to death, ran about crying and beating with sticks to 
scare the ghost away ; they have been known to set nets round 
their cabins to catch and keep out neighbours' departed souls ; 
fancying the soul of a dying man to go out at the wigwam 
roof, they would habitually beat the sides with sticks to drive it 
forth ; we even hear of the widow going off from her husband's 
funeral followed by a person flourishing a handful of twigs 
about her head like a flyflapper, to drive off her husband's 
ghost and leave her free to marry again.^ With a kindlier 
feeling, the Congo negroes abstained for a whole year after 
a death from sweeping the house, lest the dust should injure 
the delicate substance of the ghost ; ^ the Tonquinese avoided 
house-cleaning during the festival when the souls of the dead 
came back to their houses for the New Year's visit ; * and it 
seems likely that the special profession of the Roman " everria- 
tores" who swept the houses out after a funeral, was connected 
with a similar idea.^ To this day, it remains a German peasant 
saying that it is wrong to slam a door, lest one should pinch a 
soul in it.^ The not uncommon practice of strewing ashes to 
show the footprints of ghosts or demons takes for granted that 
they are substantial bodies. In the literature of animism, 
extreme tests of the weight of ghosts are now and then forth- 
coming. They range from the declaration of a Basuto diviner 
that the late queen had been bestriding his shoulders, and he 
never felt such a weight in his life, to Glanvil's story of David 
Hunter the neat-herd, who lifted up the old woman's ghost, and 
she felt just like a bag of feathers in his arms, or the pathetic 

^ Lang, * Queensland,' p. 441 ; Bonwick, 'Tasmanians,' p. 187. 

2 Charlevoix, 'Nouvelle France,' vol. vi. pp. 76, 122; Le Jeiine in 'Kel. de 
la Nonvelle France,' 1634, p. 23 ; 1639, p. 44 ; Tanner's 'I^arr.' p. 292. 

3 Bastian, 'Mensch,' vol. ii. p. 323. 

* Meiners, vol. i. p. 318. 

* Festus, s. V. * everriatores ; ' see Bastian, 1. c, and compare Hartknoch, cited 
l)elow, vol. ii. p. 36. 

s Wuttke, 'Volksaberglaube,'pp. 132, 216. 


German superstition that the dead mother's coming back in the 
night to suckle the baby she has left on earth, may be known 
by the hollow pressed down in the bed where she lay, and at 
last down to the alleged modern spiritualistic reckoning of the 
weight of a human soul at from S to 4 ounces. ^ 

Explicit statements as to the substance of soul are to be found 
both among low and high races, in an instructive series of defi- 
nitions. The Tongans imagined the human soul to be the finer 
or more aeriform part of the body, which leaves it suddenly at 
the moment of death ; something comparable to the perfume 
and essence of a flower as related to the more solid vegetable 
fibre.^^ The Greenland seers described the soul as they ha^bitu- 
ally perceived it in their visions ; it is pale and soft, they said, 
and he who tries to seize it feels nothing, for it has no flesh 
nor bone nor sinew.^ The Caribs did not think the soul so im- 
material as to be invisible, but said it was subtle and thin like 
a purified body.* Turning to higher races, we may take the 
Siamese as an example of a people who conceive of souls as con- 
sisting of subtle matter escaping sight and touch, or as united 
to a swiftly moving aerial body.^ In the classic world, it is 
recorded as an opinion of Epicurus that " they who say the soul 
is incorporeal talk folly, for it could neither do nor suffer any- 
thing were it such."^ Among the Fathers, Irenseus describes 
souls as incorporeal in comparison wdth mortal bodies, '^ and 
Tertullian relates a vision or revelation of a certain Montanist 
l^rophetess, of the soul seen by her corporeally, thin and lucid, 
aerial in colour and human in form. ^ For an example of 
mediaeval doctrine, may be cited a 14th century English poem, 
the "Ayenbite of Inwyt " (i.e. "Remorse of Conscience") 

* Casalis, 'Basutos,' p. 285 ; Glanvil, 'SaJucismiis Triumpliatus,' part ii. p. 161 ; 
Wuttke, p. 216 ; Bastian, ' Psychologie,' p. 192. 

- Mariner, ' Tonga Is. ' vol. ii. p. 135. 
3 Cranz, * Gronland,' p. 257. 

* Rochefort, * lies Antilles,' p. 429. 

* Loubere, ' Siam,' vol. i. p. 458; Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 259; 
see 278. 

•^ Diog. Laert. x. 67-8 ; see Serv. ad Mn. iv. 654. 

7 Irenseus contra Haeres, v. 7, 1 ; see Origen. De Princip. ii. 3, 2. 

8 Tertull. De Anima, 9. 


which points out how the soul, by reason of the thinness of its 
substance, suffers all the more in purgatory : 

*' The soul is more tendre and nesche 
Than the bodi that hath bones and fleysche ; 
Thanne the soul that is so tendere of kinde, 
Mote nedis hure penaunce hardere y-finde, 
Than eni bodi that evere on live was." ^ 

The doctrine of the ethereal soul passed on into more modern 
philosophy, and the European peasant holds fast to it still ; as 
Wuttke says, the ghosts of the dead have to him a misty and 
evanescent materiality, for they have bodies as we have, though 
of other kind : they can eat and drink, they can be wounded and 
killed.^ Nor was the ancient doctrine ever more distinctly 
stated than by a modern spiritualistic writer, who observes that 
"a spirit is no immaterial substance; on the contrary, the 
spiritual organization is composed of matter .... in a 
very high state of refinement and attenuation."^ 

Among rude races, the original conception of the human soul 
seems to have been that of ethereality, or vaporous materiality, 
which has held so large a place in human thought ever since. 
In fact, the later metaphysical notion of immateriality could 
scarcely have conveyed any meaning to a savage. It is more- 
over to be noticed that, as to the whole nature and action, of 
apparitional souls, the lower philosophy escapes various diffi- 
culties which down to modern times have perplexed meta- 
physicians and theologians of the civilized world. Considering 
the thin ethereal body of the soul to be itself sufficient and 
suitable for visibility, movement, and speech, the primitive ani- 
mists had no need of additional hypotheses to account for these 
manifestations, theological theories such as we may find detailed 
by Calmet, as that immaterial souls have their own vaporous 
bodies, or occasionally have such vaporous bodies provided for 
them by supernatural means to enable them to appear as spectres, 
or that they possess the power of condensing the circumambient 

' Hampole, ' Ayenbite of Inwyt.' 

2 Wuttke, ' Volksaberglaube,' pp. 216, 226. 

2 A, J. Davis, ' Philosophy of Spiritual Intercourse,' New York, 1S51, p. 49. 


air into phantom-like bodies to invest themselves in, or of form- 
ing from it vocal instruments.^ It appears to have been within 
systematic schools of civilized philosophy that the transcendental 
definitions of the immaterial soul were obtained, by abstraction 
from the primitive conception of the ethereal-material soul, so 
as to reduce it from a physical to a metaphysical entity. 

Departing from the body at the time of death, the soul or 
spirit is considered set free to linger near the tomb, to wander 
on earth or flit in the air, or to travel to the proper region of 
spirits — the world beyond the grave. The principal concep- 
tions of the lower psychology as to a Future Life will be con- 
sidered in the following chapters, but for the present purpose of 
investigating the theory of souls in general, it will be well to 
enter here upon one department of the subject. Men do not 
stop short at the persuasion that death releases the soul to a 
free and active existence, but they quite logically proceed to 
assist nature, by slaying men in order to liberate their souls 
for ghostly uses. Thus there arises one of the most wide- 
spread, distinct, and intelligible rites of animistic religion — 
that of funeral human sacrifice for the service of the dead. 
When a man of rank dies and his soul departs to its own place, 
wherever and whatever that place may be, it is a rational in- 
ference of early philosophy that the souls of attendants, slaves, 
and wives, put to death at his funeral, will make the same 
journey, and continue their service in the next life, and the 
argument is frequently stretched further, to include the souls 
of new victims sacrificed in order that they may enter upon 
the same ghostly servitude. It will appear from the ethno- 
graphy of this rite that it is not strongly marked in the 
very lowest levels of culture, but that, arising in the higher 
savagery, it developes itself in the barbaric stage, and thence- 
forth continues or dwindles in survival. 

Of the murderous practices to Avhich this opinion leads, re- 
markably distinct accounts may be cited from among tribes of 
the Indian Archipelago. The following account is given of the 
funerals of great men among the savage Kayans of Borneo : — 

^ Calraet, vol. i. cli. xli., etc. 


" Slaves are killed in order that they may follow the deceased 
and attend upon him. Before they are killed the relations 
who surround them enjoin them to take great care of their 
master when they join him, to watch and shampoo him when 
he is indisposed, to be always near him, and to obey all his 
behests. The female relatives of the deceased then take a 
spear and slightly wound the victims, after which the males 
spear them to death." Again, the opinion of the Idaan is " that 
all whom they kill in this world shall attend them as slaves 
after death. This notion of future interest in the destruction 
of the human species is a great impediment to an intercourse 
with them, as murder goes farther than present advantage or 
resentment. From the same jonnciple they will purchase a 
slave, guilty of any capital crime, at fourfold his value, that 
they may be his executioners." With the same idea is con- 
nected the ferocious custom of "head-hunting," so prevalent 
among the Dayaks before Rajah Brooke's time. They con- 
sidered that the ov/ner of every human head they could pro- 
cure would serve them in the next world, where, indeed, a 
man's rank would be according to his number of heads in 
this. They would continue the mourning for a dead man till 
a head was brought in, to provide him with a slave to accom- 
pany him to the " habitation of souls ; " a father who lost his 
child would go out and kill the first man he met, as a funeral 
ceremony; a young man might not marry till he had pro- 
cured a head, and some tribes would bury with a dead man the 
first head he had taken, together with spears, cloth, rice, and 
betel. Waylaying and murdering men for their heads became, 
in fact, the Dayaks' national sport, and they remarked " the 
white men read books, we hunt for heads instead." ^ Of such 
rites in the Pacific islands, the most hideously purposeful ac- 
counts reach us from the Fiji group. Till lately, a main part 
of the ceremony of a great man's funeral was the strangling 
of wives, friends, and slaves, for the distinct purpose of attend- 
ing him into the world of spirits. Ordinarily the first victim 

1 ' Jourii. Ind. Arcliip.' vol. ii, p. 359; vol. iii. pp. 104, 55Q ; Earl, * Eastern 
Seas,' p. 266; St. John, 'Far East,* vol. i. pp. 52, 73, 79, 119 ; Mund}^ 'Narr. 
from Brooke's Journals,' p. 203. See Eliot in * As. Ees.' vol. iii. p. 28 (Garos). 


was the wife of the deceased, and more than one if he had 
several, and their corpses, oiled as for a feast, clothed with 
new fringed girdles, with heads dressed and ornamented, and 
vermilion and turmeric powder spread on their faces and 
bosoms, were laid by the side of the dead warrior. Associates 
and inferior attendants were likewise slain, and these bodies 
were spoken of as ''grass for bedding the grave." When Ra 
Mbithi, the pride of Somosomo, was lost at sea, seventeen of 
his wives were killed ; and after the news of the massacre of 
the Namena people, in 1839, eighty women were strangled 
to accompany the spirits of their murdered husbands. Such 
sacrifices took place under the same pressure of public opinion 
which kept up the widow-burning in modern India. The 
Fijian widow was worked upon by her relatives with all the 
pressure of persuasion and of menace ; she understood well that 
life to her henceforth would mean a wretched existence of 
neglect, disgrace, and destitution ; and tyrannous custom, as 
hard to struggle against in the savage as in the civilized v/orld, 
drove her to the grave. Thus, far from resisting, she became 
importunate for death and the new life to come, and till public 
opinion reached a more enlightened state, the missionaries 
often used their influence in vain to save from the stransflino^- 
cord some wife whom they could have rescued, but who herself 
refused to live. So repugnant to the native mind was the idea 
of a chieftain going unattended into the other world, that the 
missionaries' prohibition of the cherished custom was one 
reason of their dislike to Christianity. Many of the nominal 
Christians, when once a chief of theirs was shot from an am- 
bush, esteemed it most fortunate that a stray shot at the same 
time killed a young man at a distance from him, and thus pro- 
vided a companion for the spirit of the slain chief.^ 

In America, the funeral human sacrifice makes its charac- 
teristic appearance. A good example may be taken from 
among the Osages, whose habit was sometimes to plant in the 

1 T. Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 188—204; Manner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 220; 
For New Zealand accounts, see K. Taylor, 'New Zealand,' pp. 218, 227 ; Polack, 
'New Zealanders,' vol. i. pp. G6, 78, 113. 


cairn raised over a corpse a pole v/itli an enemy's scaljD hangings 
to the top. Their notion was that by taking an enemy and 
suspending his scalp over the grave of a deceased friend the 
spirit of the victim became subjected to the spirit of the buried 
warrior in the land of spirits. Hence the last and best service 
that could be performed for a deceased relative was to take an 
enemy's life, and thus transmit it by his scalp.i The corre- 
spondence of this idea with that just mentioned among the 
Dayaks is very striking. With a similar intention, the Caribs 
would slay on the dead master's grave any of his slaves they 
could lay hands on.^ Among the native peoples risen to con- 
siderabl}^ higher gi'ades of social and political life, these prac- 
tices were not suppressed but exaggerated, in the ghastly 
sacrifices of warriors, slaves, and wives, who departed to continue 
their duteous offices at the funeral of the chief or monarch 
in Central America ^ and Mexico,* in Bogota ^ and Peru.^ It is 
interesting to notice, in somewhat favourable contrast with 
these customs of comparatively cultured American nations, the 
practice of certain rude tribes of the North- West. The Qua- 
keolths, for instance, did not actually sacrifice the widow, but 
they made her rest her head on her husband's corpse while it 
w^as being burned, until at last she was dragged more dead 
than alive from the flames ; if she recovered, she collected her 
husband's ashes and carried them about with her for three 
years, during which any levity or deficiency of grief would 
render her an outcast. This looks like a mitigated survival 
from an earlier custom of actual widow-burning.^ 

1 J. M'Coy, 'Hist, of Baptist Indian Missions,' p. 360 ; Waitz, vol. iii, p. 200. 
See also Schoolcraft, ' Indian Tribes,' part ii. p. 133 (Comanches). 

2 Rochefort, 'lies ^\ntilles,"pp. 429, 512; see also J. G. Miiller, pp. 174^ 


3 Oviedo, ' Relation de Ciieba,' p. 140; Charlevoix, 'ITouv. Fr.' vol. vi. 
p. 178 (Natchez) ; Waitz, vol. iii. p. 219. See Brinton, 'Myths of New World,' 

p. 239. 

^ Brassenr, 'Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 573. 

^ Piedrahita, ' Nuevo Eeyno de Granada,' part i. lib. i. c. 3. 

s Cieza de Leon, p. 161 ; Eivero and Tschndi, 'Peruv, Ant.' p. 200 ; Pres- 
cott, ' Peru,' vol. i. p. 29. See statements as to effigies, J. G. Miiller, p. 379. 

7 Simpson, 'Journey,' vol. i. p. 190 ; similar practice among Takulli or Carrier 
Ind., Waitz, vol. iii. p. 200. 


Of such funeral rites, carried out to the death, graphic and 
horrid descriptions are recorded in the countries across Africa 
— East, Central, and West. A headman of the Wadoe is buried 
sitting in a shallow pit, and with the corpse a male and female 
slave alive, he with a bill-hook in his hand to cut fuel for his 
lord in the death-world, she seated on a little stool with the 
dead chief's head in her lap. A chief of Unyamwezi is en- 
tombed in a vaulted pit, sitting on a low stool with a boAV in 
his right hand, and provided with a pot of native beer ; with 
him are shut in alive three women slaves, and the ceremony is 
concluded with a libation of beer on the earth heaped up above 
them all. The same idea which in Guinea makes it common 
for the living to send messages by the dying to the dead, is 
developed in Ashanti and Dahome into a monstrous system of 
massacre. The King of Dahome must enter Deadland with a 
ghostly court of hundreds of wives, eunuchs, singers, drummers, 
and soldiers. Nor is this all. Captain Burton thus describes 
the yearly " Customs : " — "They periodically supply the departed 
monarch with fresh attendants in the shadowy world. For un- 
happily these murderous scenes are an expression, lamentably 
mistaken but perfectly sincere, of the liveliest filial piety." 
Even this annual slaughter must be supplemented by almost 
daily murder : — " Whatever action, however trivial, is performed 
by the King, it must dutifully be reported to his sire in the 
shadowy realm. A victim, almost always a war-captive, is 
chosen ; the message is delivered to him, an intoxicating 
draught of rum follows it, and he is dispatched to Hades 
in the best of humours." ^ In southern districts of Africa, 
accounts of the same class begin in Congo and Angola with 
the recorded slaying of the dead man's favourite wives, to live 
with him in the other world, a practice still in vogue among 
the Chevas of the Zambesi district, and formerly known among 
the Maravis, while the funeral sacrifice of attendants with a 
chief is a thing of the past among the Barotse, as among the 
Zulus, who have not forgotten the days when the chief's ser- 

^ Burton, * Central Afr.' vol. i. p. 124 ; vol. ii. p. 25 ; 'Dahome,' vol. ii, p. 18, 
etc. ; *Tr. Eth. Soc' vol. iii. p. 403 ; J. L. Wilson, ' W. Afr.' pp. 203, 219, 394. 
See also H. Rowley, 'Mission to Central Africa,' p. 229. 

VOL. I. E E 


vants and attendant warriors were cast into the fire which had 
consumed his body, that they might go with him, and prepare 
things beforehand, and get food for him.i 

If now we turn to the records of Asia and Europe, we shall 
find the sacrifice of attendants for the dead widely prevalent in 
both continents in old times, while in the east its course may 
be traced continuing onward to our own day. The two Moham- 
medans who travelled in Southern Asia in the ninth centur}^ 
relate that on the accession of certain kings a quantity of rice 
is prepared, which is eaten by some three or four hundred men, 
who present themselves voluntarily to share it, thereby under- 
taking to burn themselves at the monarch's death. With this 
corresponds Marco Polo's thirteenth century account in Southern 
India of the king of Maabar's guard of horsemen, who, when 
he dies and his body is burnt, throw themselves into the fire 
to do him service in the next world.^ In the seventeenth cen- 
tury the practice is described as prevailing in Japan, where, on 
the death of a nobleman, from ten to thirty of his servants put 
themselves to death by the " hara kari," or ripping-up, having 
indeed engaged during his lifetime, by the solemn compact of 
drinking wine together, to give their bodies to their lord at his 
death. The Japanese form of modern survival of such funeral 
sacrifices is to substitute for real men and animals images of 
stone, or clay, or wood, placed by the corpse.^ Among the 
Ossetes of the Caucasus, an interesting relic of widow-sacrifice is 
still kept up : the dead man's widow and his saddle-horse are 
led thrice round the grave, and no man may marry the widow 
or mount the horse thus devoted.* In China, legend preserves 
the memory of the ancient funeral human sacrifice. The 
brother of Chin Yang, a disciple of Confucius, died, and his 
widow and steward wished to bury some living persons with 

^ Cavazzi, *Ist. Descr. de' tre Kegni Congo, Matamba, et Angola,' Bologna, 
1687, lib. i. 264 ; Waitz, vol. ii. pp. 419—21 ; Callaway, 'Religion of Amaziilu,' 
p. 212. 

2 Renaudot, *Acc. by two Mohammedan Travellers,' London 1733, p. 81 ; and 
in Pinkerton, vol. vii. j). 215 ; Marco Polo, book iii. chap. xx. ; and in Pinkerton, 
vol. vii. p. 162. 

3 Caron, 'Japan,' ibid., p. 622 ; Siebold, 'Nippon,' v. p. 22. 
■* * Journ. Ind. Archip.' new series, vol. ii. p. 374. 


him, to serve him in the regions below. Thereupon the sage 
suggested that the proper victims would be the widow and 
steward themselves, but this not precisely meeting their views, 
the matter dropped, and the deceased was interred without at- 
tendants. This story at least shows the rite to have been not 
only known but understood in China long ago. In modern 
China, the suicide of widows to accompany their husbands is a 
recognised practice, sometimes even performed in public. More- 
over, the ceremon}^ of providing sedan-bearers and an umbrella- 
bearer for the dead, and sending mounted horsemen to announce 
beforehand his arrival to the authorities of Hades, although 
these bearers and messengers are only made of paper and 
burnt, seem to represent survivals of a more murderous reality.^ 
The Aryan race gives striking examples of the rite of funeral 
human sacrifice in its sternest shape, whether in history, or in 
myth that records as truly as history the manners of old days. ^ 
The episodes of the Trojan captives laid with the horses and 
hounds on the funeral pile of Patroklos, and of Evadne throwing 
herself into the funeral pile of her husband, and Pausanias's 
narrative of the suicide of the three Messenian widows, are 
among its Greek representatives.^ In Scandinavian myth, Baldr 
is burnt with his dwarf foot-page, his horse and saddle ; Brynhild 
lies on the pile by her beloved Sigurd, and men and maids 
follow after them on the hell- way. '^ The Gauls in Caesar's time 
burned at the dead man's sumptuous funeral whatever was 
dear to him, animals also, and much-loved slaves and clients. ^ 
Old mentions of Slavonic heathendom describe the burning of 

^ Legge, 'Confucius,' p. 119; Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. i. pp. 108, 174, 192. 
The practice of attacking or killing all persons met by a funeral procession is 
perhaps generally connected with funeral human sacrifice ; any one met on the 
road by the funeral of a Mongol prince was slain and ordered to go as escort ; in 
the Kimbunda country, any one who meets a royal funeral procession is put to 
Jeath with the other victims at the grave (Magj'ar, *Siid. Afrika, p. 353); see 
also Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. i. p. 403 ; Cook, 'First Voy.' voL i. pp. 146, 230 

- Jacob Grimm, 'Verbrennen der Leichen,' contains an instructive collection of 
references and citations. 

2 Homer. II. xxiii. 175 ; Eurip. Suppl. ; Pausanias, iv. 2. 

"* Edda, ' Gj'lfaginnin^.' 49 ; ' Brynhildarqvitha,' etc. 

« Caesar. Bell. Gall, vl 19. 

E E 2 


the dead with clothing and weapons, horses and hounds, with 
faithful servants, and above all, with wives. Thus St. Boniface 
says that " the Wends keep matrimonial love with so great zeal, 
that the wife may refuse to survive her husband, and she is 
held praiseworthy among women who slays herself with her 
own hand, that she may be burnt on one pyre with her lord."i 
This Aryan rite of widow-sacrifice has not only an ethnographic 
and antiquarian interest, but even a place in modern politics. 
In Brah manic India the widow of a Hindu of the Brahman or 
the Kshatriya caste was burnt on the funeral pile with her hus- 
band, as a sati or "good woman," which word has passed into 
English as suttee. Mentioned in classic and mediaeval times, 
the practice was in full vigour at the beginning of the present 
century. - Often one dead husband took many wives wdth him. 
>Some went willingly and gaily to the new life, many were 
driven by force of custom, by fear of disgrace, by family per- 
suasion, by